With 19 years under his belt at Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services, it’s safe to say John Andrews, corporate director of culinary and nutritional services, is dedicated to his craft—and his foodservice team. Because of that dedication, he’s built a career on developing a passion for foodservice in others, and recognizing that passion.
“One of the people we have at one of our newest communities, he’s worked at that campus for 10 years, and he told me, ‘I have never been recognized for the work I do as I have at OPRS in the whole 10 years at this other company,’” Andrews says. “I know early in my career, [recognition] really did matter. I’m just surprised in our business that it’s not given more credit.”
Andrews shared with FoodService Director some of his best tactics for using recognition to build and retain a committed staff.
1. Get them while they're young
Helping students find their way to noncommercial before they’re jaded by restaurant work is part of the impetus behind Andrews’ involvement with a statewide program that introduces high school juniors and seniors to different foodservice career paths. “When I came to long-term care, I’d already been in the business for a while,” he says, adding that he found a different challenge and a friendly environment for work-life balance. “But some of those students, they get into the real world and go to work for restaurants—they don’t have that experience and get discouraged. I would love to get ahold of them first.”
2. Show them a bright future
“Every job I’ve had, I’ve looked for how to get that extra job or responsibility or promotion,” Andrews says. “When you’re a young kid, you do it for different reasons—it’s to make money, and for me it was to satisfy my car expenses. But later you start to feel like, ‘I could make an experience of this.’” Helping employees identify those “extras” can make the difference in retention and job satisfaction versus losing them to a promotion elsewhere.
3. Build up the team—rather than yourself
On the recommendation of OPRS’ CEO, Andrews recently teamed up with a less-experienced foodservice director at an outside company who was looking to build a restaurant at an independent living facility. He reached out, and the two are now in talks for the new FSD to become part of OPRS’ purchasing group.
Even though the partnership came on the tails of OPRS’ CEO bragging about their program, Andrews says, “I like opportunities to build a team rather than make it about me. I’m not the know-it-all; I’ll pull that team together where we can all contribute to come to the results we’re looking for.” And who knows—maybe serving as somewhat of a mentor for that younger FSD will come back around to benefit OPRS in unexpected ways.
4. Make praise a priority
“Recognition has been such an important thing to me,” Andrews says. “Our chief HR person says I’m the recognition king.” The most visible way he does so is through OPRS’ annual chefs’ awards, which honor employees in several dozen categories like marketing, menu development, health inspection scores and creativity, allowing a wide variety of people to be recognized. “I do these little chef trophies; each one of our chef-directors has a shelf with a dozen of these if they’ve been around for a few years,” he says. OPRS maintenance staff builds the shelves, which are a point of pride among employees.
5. Fuel their passions
A few years ago, one of Andrews’ staffers was interested in learning ice carving—not a skill that immediately translates into noncommercial foodservice. But OPRS supported the worker through ice-carving boot camp, and “Our executive director said, ‘That’s the best investment we’ve made.’” The worker later showed off his talent at a big pasta dinner event and was recognized for his new skills.
“Not everybody wants to be an ice carver,” Andrews says. “Look at everybody individually and see what motivates them and keeps them ticking and feel that their career is building and learning and growing. It could get monotonous sometimes, with everything that we do.” Support and guide people, he says. “They don’t need to be just like you, or do it just like you did it when you were in their job.”