Chris Schmidt: Rejuvenating a Program

Schmidt attributes his success in implementing so many changes to his menu in a short time to his staff of 55 foodservice employees. “They love to cook as much as I do,” he says. “I always tell them this Native American saying to give them a little motivation. The saying goes that Native Americans used to prepare their meals and whatever mood they were in, the person who consumed it would feel the same feelings. It’s just a saying, but I tell them that whenever you guys cook your food, if you put a little bit of love into it, of course, your customers are going to enjoy it.”

Lori Sydes, director of nutrition care division at the Dewitt Health Care Network in Fort Belvoir, Va., was Schmidt’s former supervisor at William Beaumont. It was Sydes, Schmidt says, who allowed him the freedom to make the changes at the hospital. “Chris is younger than a lot of the staff was, and that can be an uphill battle,” Sydes says. “But he took the time to get to know them and showed them what he could do to prove his credentials.”

For his part, Schmidt says he simply gave his staff the same opportunity to be creative that Sydes gave to him. “The staff had gotten in a pattern,” he says. “When I got to William Beaumont, I was given the opportunity to be creative. They told me that nobody had ever let them experiment. They just needed that opportunity.”

Chris Schmidt, FSD of the Month, William Beaumont Army Medical Center, pieExpanding foodservices’ reach: It is predicted that Fort Bliss and the surrounding area will expand exponentially in the coming years, and Schmidt is already planning for the growth, which he expects could double the volume of his meals. Currently, he serves 1,500 meals each day at the 115-bed hospital.

One way in which Schmidt is preparing to accommodate the increase in customer flow is by expanding the grab-and-go section. “We are going to offer many things that are offered in the main dining room, but it will just be easier access and quicker, to contrast with some of the congestion that we are having in our dining room right now,” he says. The offerings include wraps, sandwiches, salads and paninis.  Schmidt also hopes to add several smaller grab-and-go areas on different wings in the hospital to further ease congestion.

Recently, after the purchase of a blast chiller, Schmidt started a cart service for those staff members on the night shift. Items from that day’s menu are frozen and placed in the cart for purchase.

Creating an atmosphere: Since coming to William Beaumont in 2005, Schmidt has done much to create an inviting atmosphere for his patrons. Schmidt and his staff put on elaborate special events including St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Hispanic Heritage and Black History Month. For Schmidt, the events go beyond a themed menu to include much more. He provides the history behind each dish served, as well as creating an ambiance fitting for the event, with clothing, decorations and music from the geographical or cultural area of the event.

For Thanksgiving and Christmas, Schmidt’s staff assemble fruit baskets and holiday cookies, which are passed out to all patients. He also creates ice carvings. “It’s about the little things,” he says about making these days special for the hospital. “We are making our hospital feel more like a home away from home,” which, he says, is especially important for the families of deployed soldiers.

Schmidt has also taken great strides to become the face of the foodservice department. One way in which he does this is by spending the lunch period in the dining room talking with his customers. “The most rewarding part of my job is the people who come up to you and feel like they really get to know you,” he says. “I have this one guy who comes in here and and he tells me all about his time cooking in the Navy. He told me this is the best food he’s ever had. If you know you’ve got that from someone like him, you know you’re doing something right. It’s just their appreciation of coming in here.” Schmidt has made it a personal goal to become known by name to his customers in order to gain their trust.

“Chris is very good at listening to what people have to say, especially those that have been at the hospital for a very long time,” Sydes says. “He is respectful of what others have to say.” She adds that Schmidt’s communication skills have been his greatest asset in accomplishing change. “He made sure that the staff knew there were positive results with the changes, which in turn made it easier to make the next change.”

For Schmidt, it’s about a love for cooking. “Every place that I’ve gone to I’ve always wanted to do more and more,” he says. “Foodservice is one of those things that either you love it or you hate it. I guess I’m one of those odd balls who love it. It’s more than just a passion. I love to create and I love a good challenge. And believe me, there are a lot of challenges.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Sodexo has appointed Cathy Desquesses as its chief people officer, the company announced on Friday.

Before joining Sodexo, Desquesses held multiple leadership roles in the human resources department at General Electric, where she worked for 20 years. Most recently, she was the global HR leader for GE Power Gas.

Desquesses will begin her new role on July 1 and will report to Sodexo CEO Denis Machuel. She will replace Juan Pablo Urruticoechea, who is moving into a new position at Sodexo.

Photo courtesy of Sodexo

Managing Your Business
woman in the kitchen alone

The #MeToo movement has turned sexual harassment into the top labor-related regulatory issue for all employers, triggering action from three out of four companies, according to a new survey on workforce concerns.

About two-thirds (66%) of employers rank the issue among their top two employment-related legal worries, even without a change in the pertinent laws and regulations, the canvass found.

What has changed, concluded surveyor Littler Mendelson, one of the nation’s largest labor-focused legal firms, are employee expectations and the social climate.

“No company...

Managing Your Business
Starbucks college campus

Noncommercial dining centers are often filled with their own Starbucks, Burger Kings, Panera Breads and dozens of other nationally recognized brands. Branded concepts, whether corporate brands or self-operated, offer diners familiar names, menu items, and a sense of place. This translates into more money spent and more diner loyalty for foodservice operators.

However, the success of branded concepts vary greatly. There can be significantly different results depending on whether noncommercial operators decide to franchise, lease or develop their own branded concepts. There’s no one-...

Menu Development
pizza oven

Wood-fired ovens take the biggest slice of the pie when it comes to pizza-cooking preference for consumers. Just fewer than half (45%) of consumers say they prefer a pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven compared to other oven cooking methods. Here are the styles of ovens pizza consumers prefer most.

Wood-fired oven 45% Gas oven 13% Electric oven 11% Grilled 4% Coal oven 4% No preference 23%

Source: Technomic 2018 Pizza Consumer Trend Report , powered by Ignite

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code