Sodexo’s Brand Management division is bringing celebrity chefs to its clients through a new promotional series called In My Kitchen. The series, which will feature three themes during a one-year period, hopes to capitalize on research Sodexo has conducted regarding customer behavior.
“We conducted some consumer research to better understand the perceived value of menu items that are associated with a known chef,” says Heidi Hastings-Brien, senior director of marketing for Brand Management. “Our research demonstrated that it does increase customers’ propensity to buy something. We thought we could create some excitement by putting together a portfolio of chefs that would develop a host of recipes for us.”
The first element in the series, called Close To Home, was introduced this fall and will run through the end of the year. The chefs involved in Close To Home include Barton Seaver, Marvin Woods and Virginia Willis, as well as Sodexo chef Ernest Servantes, who appeared on The Food Network’s “Chopped” and was named its Grill Masters Champion.
Each of the chefs has contributed two items, and clients are free to highlight whichever chefs and menu items they want.
Seaver, a chef and National Geographic Fellow, created Orange Scented Salmon with Jasmine Rice and Grilled Chicken with Cilantro Mint Pesto. Woods, a cookbook author and TV cooking personality, contributed Blackened Chicken and Avocado Wrap and Roasted Caribbean Jerk Chicken with Fiesta Rice. Willis, owner of Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, drew up a Peach & Dijon Glazed Pork Sandwich and Oven-Fried Chicken Wrap. Servantes, currently the executive chef at Texas Lutheran College, created a Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Jicama Slaw and a Chipotle Chicken Fajita Wrap.
“We’ve gotten great feedback on the program thus far,” Hastings-Brien says,” not just from customers and clients but from our own employees as well. We’ve been monitoring sales of In My Kitchen items versus regular menu items, and whenever these dishes are offered they are usually among the top sellers.”
Hastings-Brien adds that Sodexo is running a contest among its chefs and managers based on how they use In My Kitchen in their dining facilities. Selected employees will get to have one of the chefs visit their operation.