Speaking with foodservice directors about their work is one of my favorite parts of this job, and it’s why I jumped at the chance to write this month’s cover story, FoodService Director magazine’s first-ever ranking of the Top 100 Noncommercial Operations. (I also just like giving myself extra work.) Since our sister company, data research firm Technomic, did the heavy lifting when it came to crunching numbers, I got to handle the fun part—interviewing those top operators about their behind-the-scenes struggles and successes.
But because they’re so successful, believe me, these folks have a lot to share. Here are some of my favorite anecdotes that didn’t make it into the final story.
- Guy Procopio’s family has been a window into the world of millennial diners. While the culinary services director at Michigan State University says he had a “rich, diverse upbringing, and I ate everything you could imagine,” his own children “grew up on macaroni and cheese” due to their parents’ busy work schedule. (Sounds like a delicious problem to me.) But once they got to college (at MSU, naturally), “their appetites had matured, and the diversity of what they’ll eat is unbelievable,” he says. Those eating habits also shaped MSU’s Combo-X-Change program, which allows students who don’t have time to sit and eat to swap a dining hall swipe for an equivalent grab-and-go meal at a retail location during weekdays.
- Mark Freeman sees his customers interacting with technology in unexpected ways. When Microsoft added mobile ordering, the senior manager of employee services anticipated that diners would order from their desks so the food would be ready once they arrived at the cafe to pick it up. Instead, people are coming down to the cafe to look at their choices and chat with co-workers in person. “But once they decide what they want, they’re using the phone as a line-buster instead of waiting in the queue,” he says. “There’s human interaction that people want to have, and they’re going to have it.”
- Deb Boudrow thinks some major trends are leveling off. “I can remember years ago when the movement started, we couldn’t source enough gluten-free products; there was a time when our vendor was out of them,” says the senior manager for procurement at Massachusetts General Hospital. “The peak has kind of hit with that one.” While MGH is looking into adding breakfast items to its afternoon and evening menus, she’s also unsure how long the trend of all-day breakfast will last.