Although today’s noncommercial industry is almost unrecognizable compared to the business of yore, there is always room for improvement. FoodService Director surveyed up-and-coming pros aged 35 and under to see what they would change about their line of work—and they did not hold back.
No big-picture control
Some operators don’t feel heard in their broader organizations, and they have an array of constituencies to answer to. Wesley Delbridge, director of food and nutrition at Chandler Unified School District in Chandler, Ariz., wishes directors had more in-school say in how the operation runs. “We would love to partner with school administrators to figure the right amount of time kids need to eat, how can we make their experience better,” he says. “We are here with the knowledge and the drive to want to make it the best dining experience it can be.”
Convenience over connection
With technology driving dining closer and closer to a speedy, frictionless process, some operators yearn to slow things down. “At least in higher education it seems the industry is moving more and more toward fast, on-the-go options,” says Alyse Festenstein, manager of community partnerships for Bon Appetit at Emory University in Atlanta. “Call me old-fashioned, but I miss the days of taking time to sit down to a meal.”
Too much waste
Although the industry has taken major strides in the realms of food waste and sustainability, some operators think that enough still isn’t being done. Amanda Goldie, director of dining services at Village at Morrison Cove in Martinsburg, Pa., says she and Compass Group as a whole try to use cosmetically imperfect produce that grocery stores won’t buy.
High costs for health
It can be challenging for operators to sell wellness to their guests when more wholesome items run up the check. Dustin Cochran, regional executive chef for Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., says he would like to balance the price difference between what it costs to produce healthy food versus processed items.
Industry outsiders don’t always understand the effect that noncommercial foodservice plays in their lives. “There is still a lot of education that needs to be done, because a lot of people still look down on foodservice workers and managers,” says Jessie Rafik Wahba, director of food and nutrition services at California Rehabilitation Institute in Los Angeles. “I wish I can change the perception that we just work in a kitchen, and educate them about the importance of nutrition and the passion and wealth behind all this great food.”
A lack of sharing
Jennifer Takara, regional manager of recruitment and safety for Bon Appetit in the San Francisco Bay Area wants more inter-connectedness and camaraderie in noncommercial. “In the San Francisco Bay Area, the entire culinary and hospitality industry suffers from lack of staff,” Takara says. “How can we work together to address the issues that face us, from cost of living to transportation on the peninsula?”