Operational Reviews – Efficiency and profitability improvementsStrategic Food Safety Audits – Scorecards and action plansQuality Assurance Planning – Training needs, systems, and process changesRequest for Proposals – Include client vision and program statementsContract Negotiations – Owner advocacy with focus on building partnershipsVendor Scorecards – Drive performance and mutual benefitSubsidy Investment Optimization – Participation and continuous improvement strategies
The pendulum has swung too far.
I say this as a bit of a wake up call to all of us in the food service industry – including yours truly. Why? Because we have gotten to the point where we have accepted average lunch participation rates in the 40% of available population range (or lower) and we think 50% is good. For too long we have cut subsidies and moved to P&L contracts that have driven cafeteria pricing to retail levels. Well as we all know in our business, customers vote with their dollars and in many cases we have lost them.
In my view, we have reached that point where we need to re-think (or maybe re-launch) the model. Yes, it is true a growing percentage of our customers telecommute and we need smaller more nimble operations to serve a smaller base. As always, we must have flexible equipment and delicious sustainable high quality food – that in today’s world is a given. But now more than ever we need a subsidy. That is right. I said SUBSIDY. We need it to provide lower price points to the consumer beyond just the value meal. We need to bring back the “available eaters” by providing them with a great nutritious meal at a reduced price. It is about quality and convenience at a very affordable price that they can’t replicate outside in the retail world.
Corporations have an opportunity to start to move the pendulum back a few notches. Recently I spoke to a few C – level executives who are concerned with their remaining and reduced work forces. Those employees that have survived the cut backs and have been holding down the fort so to speak. They are concerned about their morale and their productivity. THIS is where the subsidy comes in.
Now those of you that know me understand that I would never suggest an open check book approach. Rather, I propose a well thought out subsidy program, one with clear success measurements, a continuous improvement framework, and below market pricing. This could be just the right catalyst to raise participation rates to acceptable levels.
I don’t think there is a better way to drive productivity and morale than by having cafeterias full every day with co workers breaking bread together, staying on – site, saving time, and collaborating about their next project. My message to the CEOs and CFOs or anyone else that will listen is this….the ROI for the subsidy investment is higher participation which can yield increased productivity. If you can get even a 1-2% improvement you will begin to reap the rewards of a happier, safer and more productive work force.
Thanks for reading and for allowing me to evangelize this change in the face of tremendous economic challenge. We are a resilient industry and we hold the key to productivity in the services we provide!
All the best.
“At Morgan Stanley we are very focused on our customers and we approach our employee amenities with a passion for excellence. Our food services are a significant part of the work life experience for our employees and we are committed to quality. In working with Tony and his company, Food Industry Solutions, we have been able to achieve great results in key operational areas. Tony’s approach is unique in that he possesses a true understanding of client expectations and is able to implement long-term operational solutions. I was quite impressed with his collaborative approach when working with our on site providers and will continue to utilize his firm as needed.”
Vice President Amenities, Morgan Stanley
President, Society for Food Service Management
“At the Salish Lodge and Spa we are passionately focused on our guests and making sure that they have a great experience every time they stay with us. This means our commitment to quality must be unyielding in every aspect of our business. That is why we have partnered with Food Industry Solutions, LLC. They have helped us improve our food safety and quality assurance through timely audits, research of trends, and training sessions for our teams. Here at Salish we appreciate and value the relationship with FIS as well as their role in ensuring our guests, team members, and shareholders have a comprehensive food safety program.”
Mr. John MurphyGeneral Manager Salish Lodge and SpaSnoqualmie, Washington
“Our Food and Beverage department is a 24 X 7 operation with multiple outlets. Food Safety, as always, is part of our core values and Food Industry Solutions, LLC has helped us reach even higher standards. The detailed audits, hand washing in-service, and workshop presentation, all helped reinforce the critical areas in a way that the staff finds relevant to daily operations. I look forward to a continued partnership with Food Industry Solutions, LLC as we are completely satisfied with the results we are experiencing.”
Mr. Kevin ShoemakerF&B ManagerSalish Lodge and SpaSnoqualmie, Washington
First, I want to wish all my friends, clients, and colleagues a happy and prosperous 2010. May the new year bring you all more customers, increased sales, and improved profitability. Oh, and of course, may 2010 also bring you nothing but high scores from the local health department and zero critical violations! (You know I had to get that in some where.)
How can you make all these good wishes come true these next 12 months?
For many operators (and clients too), January is a good time to revisit some policies and practices that may have become “lost” in the heat of the daily battle. A good place to start is with your staff and the existing training programs. Are they still effective? Do they still enable your team to deliver the quality service you expect and your clientele demand?
Keep in mind that the most effective training programs offer varied delivery methods that tap into diverse learning styles. Some staff members are most comfortable in one on one or small groups, while others will appreciate visual aids, signs, or even written notes. The key is to take advantage of the various communication tools available to share and reinforce information.
Also, training does not always have to happen in a formal session. It can occur any time; in a staff meeting, a production meeting, or even at pre – service discussion. As always, remember to get your teams involved and make the training as interactive as possible. Keep it lively and have some fun.
Now I will leave you with the most important training secret of all. This goes for the client liaisons out there as well. Are you ready? Here it goes…
Everyday, and I mean everyday, catch at least one member of your team doing something right – then let them know and thank them for it.
Again, Happy New Year and stay warm.
There are many different types of food safety training programs out there. One of my favorites is still the ServSafe Essentials program for managers. You can read more at http://www.servsafe.com/FoodSafety/solutions/what/index.aspx
Most states require a 8 or 16 hour course along with a passing grade on the exam. In either case, I have found the ServSafe Essentials, 5th edition text book to be an excellent resource for students. In my view, the main advantage of ServSafe is that it breaks down the most critical features of food safety into manageable chunks. The concepts can then be presented in ways that help your team incorporate food safety methods and practices into daily operations.
Should you have any questions about ServSafe or other food safety programs do not hesitate to contact me.
Food Industry Solutions, LLC
c-425 239 1337
” Is there anything you are going to need next year to make sure all the food served continues to be safe?”
My answer had to do with 2 areas I wanted addressed as part of an overall plan to improve our food safety and quality assurance across the network of operations. Now back in those days, one of the most common causes of food-borne illnesses, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), was improper cooling of leftover foods. In other words, batches of food were not being cooled fast enough through the danger zone (135F-41F) where bacteria can grow.
With improper cooling as the culprit, I successfully obtained approval to purchase blast chillers in several large operations. Months later, our team lobbied and gained the green light to include these chillers in all future cafes designs. I remember feeling very fortunate to work for a company that supported our efforts in ensuring we met and exceeded standards for food safety.
Now, the second item I asked for was not capital equipment related at all. You see, I wanted a way of really knowing how well the operations were doing with food safety. So, I secured funding to have random samplings taken by an independent food safety consultant. These samples, taken during unannounced audits, measured total coliform and total plate count bacteria.
This gave us a way of measuring progress as with each passing month our culinary teams were able to achieve lower bacteria counts. I recall some friendly competitions going on and some kitchen staff joking, “hey my total coliform was lower than yours this month”. We actually did acknowledge the best in class kitchens with rewards, gift certificates, and other forms of recognition for a job well done.
I share this particular BLOG topic because I know the challenge many of you are faced with. Perhaps today more than ever, food service budgets are being squeezed. I urge you to find ways to deliver the right message to your senior management. That is food service brings huge benefits back to the client organization and we can’t be short sighted when it comes to food safety.
Good luck and if I could be of assistance do not hesitate to contact me.
Anthony Morro, MBA, FMP
Certified Servsafe Trainer/Exam Proctor
What is the biggest RISK in your business?
I was once asked this question by the CFO of a very large corporation during a quarterly business review. Based on the fact that it was budget season, I am pretty certain this executive was expecting me to respond with some financial “low light” such as the rising cost of food or the resistance to the last price increase.
I suppose I could have gotten away with an answer around one of those issues, but I decided no, no, let me take this opportunity to educate my senior management. After all our business is so wonderfully unique.
My response to the question was as follows. “The biggest risk to my business (Mr. CFO) is the risk of a food-borne illness” . “You see”, I went on to explain, “the SINGLE most important thing our operators do is ensure the food they buy, store, prepare, and serve to our employees is safe and wholesome. Since our services are all about keeping employees productive, and on-site, the last thing anyone wants is for someone to become ill because of the food they consume in our cafes, restaurants, or retail shops. For this reason, it is my responsibility to ensure that our operator has the equipment and tools they need to ensure Food Safety is Number 1″.
Within about 30 seconds, I knew my response was a good one because the CFO did not follow up with a question about ways to reduce the budget next year. Instead, and to his credit he calmly asked, ” Is there anything you are going to need next year to make sure all the food served continues to be safe?” (BINGO!)
In my next BLOG entry, I will briefly tell you how I answered that question and what our team did to help drive measured results in food safety. In other words, what we did to mitigate the risk and achieve excellence in this area.
Thanks for watching and…stayed tuned. 🙂
Food Industry Solutions, LLC
I know what you’re thinking.
Oh no, Tony is going to write a blog entry about Sustainability. You know. The hottest buzz word being thrown around every industry. From building engineering to seafood processing, we are no doubt seeing more on this topic then anyone could possibly keep up with. And for a while, I admit, I was actually trying to keep up! Until one evening while driving home from my daughter’s dance recital, it occurred to me that Sustainability is really all about Simplicity! Heck, it is really about my late Grandma Mary!
Now she was all about simplicity. I figure if we all practiced some of the things she did, every day, in our operations, we would achieve a level of “greenability” that even my main man Kermit The Frog would be proud of.
What I am saying is that my Grandma was ahead of her time. Yes! “Cutting Edge” Mary. Now if you follow some of Mary’s practices below and apply them to your operations, I am betting you will not only earn some LEED points but you will likely save money!
Before I present the list, let me say first I mean no disrespect to all the experts out there. Listening to folks speak about LEED building design, alternative fuels, and reduced carbon footprints, all makes good sense to me. I am merely a student and do not claim to know all there is to know.
However, what I am proposing to you is to think about sustainability as things we may have done at one time, but now, unfortunately, due to an assortment of reasons, we have made business (and life), way too complex. So to get us back to a simpler and more SUSTAINABLE time, I offer you my Grandma’s top 5 best practices to help your operation become more “green”.
#1 Waste Not Want Not – Mary made things from scratch. She made her own stock for soup and utilized leftovers from prior days. Nothing was thrown away. Who could afford to waste food? No convenience soups here in expensive plastic packaging. Leftover bread? Ah, that was the secret to the meatballs and croutons for the salad.
#2 Shop locally – Mary bought fresh ingredients from the local market. Often she walked to the “pork store” or would send yours truly (on my Royce Union Sting Ray bicycle with the “banana” seat) with a short list. Hey, how is that for reducing “food miles” and carbon emissions?
#3 Grow your own – Sure! Mary kept a garden of fresh tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and even delicious eggplant. She never bought herbs because she grew her own! Mint, Basil, and Rosemary were never more than a short walk into the back yard. Today we read about all the trendy Chefs who grow their own outside their restaurants. Well kudos to all of you and please continue, but cutting edge Mary has you beat by about 40 years! 🙂
#4 Composting – Coffee grinds were placed in old coffee “tins” and the sprinkled into the garden beds. Egg shells were broken up and placed around plants to protect them from insects and slugs.
#5 It has an off switch, use it! – Now since Mary owned the house heaven help you if you burned too many kilowatts or sucked up more than your share of “therms”. She was not only the Chef, she was also the building engineer. She always made sure we turned off lights, radios, unplugged kitchen appliances, and kept that thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Well there you have it. The top 5 strategies to improving the sustainability of your operation. Straight from the master of simplicity herself, my Grandma Mary. Oh, how we all miss you Grandma!
So please take these 5 strategies and think about how you might apply them to your operations. Think about other simple strategies like these and discuss them with your teams. Let them tell you about the “green” ideas they have for their own jobs. After all they are the experts in what they do. If you can, please share these ideas with me by commenting on this blog. I would love to hear about your successes and your challenges.
Oh, and if you get overloaded or confused just think of Grandma Mary and everything will seem a lot simpler. I guarantee it!
So I have been speaking to folks about blogging for the last several months and today I have decided to stop procrastinating and just do it. Sorry Nike! I must say if it were not for one of my esteemed partners giving me a nudge…okay a push… when he said to me “go ahead and start your blog and don’t speak to me a month from now about blogs, do it already!”
Well with all this encouragement, I have decided that the nearly 30 years of experiences in the food business can leave one with many stories to share. Now while I do enjoy storytelling, I promise to keep my posts as concise and as to the point as possible. Well most of the time anyways.
So the focus of my blog will indeed be Food Service from my own unique perspective as someone who has spent many years as a client (Owner Liaison) as well as an operator. This perspective will cut across a broad spectrum of industries from banking to health-care and from pharmaceutical to high tech. From New York to Seattle and from Paris to Rome…oh let me not forget Puerto Rico, mi Isla Bonita!
As I share my stories, tips and comments in the months ahead, I hope that you are inspired to lead your teams, delight your customers, beat your budgets, and score only high 90’s on your health inspections.
The FoodLiaison411 has arrived. Keep an eye out and let me hear from you!
The time is now! I’m doing it!
Anthony Morro, Principal