Jean Petke: The Consummate Partner

The Eastman Chemical plant in Kingsport, Tenn., is almost a city unto itself, with a population of about 8,000 employees and a couple thousand outside contractors (primarily from engineering and construction companies) on site at any given time. The enclave encompasses more than 500 buildings set on 6,000 acres; the main plaant itself covers 858 acres.

How to get her hands around so far-flung an operation while serving a clientele ranging from corporate executives to manufacturing plant employees was Jean Petke's major challenge when Eastman first outsourced foodservice in 1996. Petke is now senior employee services coordinator with broad responsibilities beyond her role as liaison overseeing a mammoth foodservice operation.

Petke arrived on the scene 17 years ago armed with a degree in home economics education from Washington State University and experience in running a catering business out of her home. "I'd never done foodservice," etke recalls, "but Eastman asked me to run its white tablecloth executive dining room."

Book cook: By combining her "book learning" with the cook's high-volume experience, she was soon up to speed. "We respected each other's knowledge," she says. With that attitude of respect paired with a savvy sense of what changes could be effected beyond the executive dining room, Petke grew her domain to the extent where, in 2001, she opened a fully implemented "virtual foodcourt" a collection of branded concepts located in several dining points of service. In 2005, it recorded its highest revenues to date.

"I've been here through the process of our foodservice operation being totally self-op, then outsourced to one contractor, to the point where we now have eight foodservice companies on site," Petke explains. Of these eight locations, one runs 24/7, while the rest are open for breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday. There are also about 400 vending machines in 100 locations, all serviced and stocked by one vendor.

To avoid being locked into a contract with only one contract operator, and to provide the broadest range of appropriate choices for her diverse customer base, Petke has forged an array of unique arrangements with seven operator-partners.

"We have three main cafeterias and two of them are privately owned by independent contractors," she explains. "At the 6th Street Cafe, for example, we contracted with a guy who had been through culinary school, worked for restaurants and contractors, but wanted to own his own business. He hires the staff, buys the food, writes the menus, etc. And, he pays us a commission, a percentage of his sales."

Negotiated commission: In fact, every company that Petke has brought in pays such a commission to Eastman. The arrangement allows the entity to own its own business without a lot of overhead costs and without the financial risk of owning a building. Petke provides the space, equipment and maintenance of equipment, as well as utilities, phones, grease disposal and carpet, hood and duct cleaning.

"Our goal is to cover our maintenance costs," she says. "Whether they're a foodservice company, a private owner or a franchisee, the only thing that's different is the amount of commission and that's negotiated separately with each one of the eight."

The shift from self-operation to contract management to this current array of outside vendors began in 1996. By January 2000, Southern Foodservice Management was running everything except the two Subway units and a McDonald's installation. (McDonald's left in December 2003.)

Then, Petke began the process of diversifying the operations. With each change in management, Petke aimed to choose the operator that would be the best fit for each location, matched to the tastes of the clientele. "We felt that while the outside world had changed, our world within the plant had not, so we set out to make it look more like Kingsport," Petke explains.

"To fill the last three slots I looked at 40 companies, franchisees, restaurant owners and contractors, within 40 miles of here. All three were installed over Memorial Day weekend in 2001, and that completed the 'foodcourt.'"

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