After a year on the road visiting operations and attending conferences (and spending some time at my desk), it’s a little overwhelming to comb through all the information I've culled from foodservice directors across the nation. You are a pretty thoughtful bunch. But on top of the smart operational tips and labor-saving initiatives were some surprising moments. Here are my top five.Submit your idea
1. Corrugated cardboard is the enemy
We at FoodService Director had no idea common boxes were such a huge problem until the topic came up at a roundtable discussion with hospital and senior living operators. One mention of corrugated cardboard and the whole room started buzzing.
“The fact of the matter is, cardboard is filthy,” Eric Eisenberg, corporate executive chef for nutrition, catering, retail and conference services at Seattle’s Swedish Health Services, told me in an interview this summer. Corrugated products can sop up and retain liquids, dirt and insects—and worse—from hospital loading docks and anything they contact during transit.
It’s a fact that hospital certification boards like DNV GL and Joint Commission now have on their radar—and that’s the bigger issue. These boards have begun requiring healthcare facilities to ban corrugated products from all patient units, including foodservice areas. It’s worth watching to see if the bans start extending to other segments in the coming years.Submit your idea
2. The nitty gritty behind UConn’s mac and cheese incident
The 2015 viral video of University of Connecticut student Luke Gatti berating a dining services employee could have easily turned into negative press for the Storrs, Conn., school. But Dennis Pierce, executive director of dining services, told a room of people at July’s NACUFS conference that the confrontation was a great learning moment for his department.
New before-and-after protocol includes creating both verbal and non-verbal cues—a wink, a nod or a hand gesture all are acceptable forms of communication—to signal for another supervisor or lead employee to make sure authorities are reached in a timely manner.
Pierce and Robert Landolphi, UConn’s assistant director of culinary development, also advise that employees avoid physical contact, repeat instructions to leave at least three times and be aware of their actions and emotions.Submit your idea
3. Gay Anderson's on-the-ground education
This summer, I spoke to Gay Anderson, child nutrition director for Brandon Valley School District in Brandon, S.D., to gather her most important lessons for young managers. But it was the backstory of Anderson, who herself became a manager at age 16, that really blew me away. After graduating from high school, she started managing a family-style eatery, and within two years was director of operations for two restaurants. From there, she became a hospital FSD, left the business to raise her children, then returned to foodservice at Brandon Valley, a role she found with a little courage and a little luck.
Anderson and her family were moving to Sioux Falls, and while she was emailing local schools to determine which was best for her kids, Anderson happened to ask whether Brandon Valley had any positions available. Lo and behold, the former director had retired two weeks prior, and the district could hold the position for five months while Anderson’s family relocated.
“It was one of those things I believe was meant to be,” says Anderson, who had no prior school foodservice experience. She’s now been in the role for 14 years, and while she completed her business degree just two years ago, those decades of on-the-ground experience have proven that FSDs can build their careers without formal education. “I think I’ve learned better how to work with and manage people,” she says. “When you manage people all of your adult life, you need to grow with personnel issues, how to help employees improve themselves and grow.”Submit your idea
4. The depth of Disney's foodservice training
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a conference room more packed than the Disney Parks & Resorts: Creating the Magic in Food & Beverage session at NACUFS in July—standing room only would be an understatement. The interest level came as no surprise; after all, the Mouse House is notorious for its customer service and design innovation. But I was blown away by the details—Disney’s California parks sell 860,000 Mickey-shaped soft pretzels and 1.3 million Mickey waffles annually, Gary Maggetti, Disney’s director of experience integration, told us.
Disney’s culture is so immersive that employees, known as cast members, undergo three levels of training: Traditions, which teaches them what it means to be a Disney employee; Welcome To, which teaches them what is means to be a Disneyland employee; and a separate training for what it means to work at their specific foodservice location.
Part of getting that buy-in, said Michele Gendreau, general manager of Disney California Adventure food and beverage and store operations, includes finding ways to make employees feel valuable on multiple levels. When a new foodservice location opens, the planning team writes an abstract and story for the space. Cast members then sit down and write their own themed phrasing for the story—“Enjoy the drive!” at Flo’s cafe, for example—to use when interacting with customers. “It’s really engaging, and it’s much more fun,” she says. “When cast is involved in development, the efficiency and safety of themed phrasing increases, and it’s much more likely to be used.”Submit your idea
5. An Obamacare glitch in college dining staffing
When FSD editors asked C&U operators what was keeping them up at night during a roundtable discussion, labor was, unsurprisingly, one of their top gripes. What was more surprising, however, was a part of the problem stemming from a nuance of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Because they’re not eligible for health insurance, students can’t work more than 25 hours a week at dining halls, one operator says. Previously, about 200 students had worked more than 40 hours a week during the busy first week of school, banking that money for when schedules calm down and hours decrease. But because the Affordable Care Act prohibits this practice, that operator now must hire 30% more nonstudent employees to do the same work—and has lost some star student workers because of the scheduling changes.
A second operator added that during the 2014-2015 academic year, half of the shifts sometimes were left unfilled because of this problem.Submit your idea