HIGH TECH AND HIGH TOUCH. Incoming SFM president Russ Benson moderates a technology panel with Mark Buonagurio, Kevin Frankenberger and Tony Kaszuba.
Speakers on design productivity: (top) Bob Pacifico, (middle) James Davella, and (bottom) Leonard Condenzio.
So just what are the critical issues facing today's onsite operator?
On April 18, the Society for Foodservice Management's annual program to explore that question delved into topics ranging from the use of technology to provide human resource solutions, strategies to improved productivity and data management at point of sale, and new equipment innovations that can enable greater production efficiencies, energy savings and customer satisfaction.
Beginning with front and backofthe-house tours of Aramarkoperated facilities at event-host New York University, at Kimmel Center, attendees were presented with a non-stop program that detailed how contract service providers and their client customers are using strategy and technology to address such issues and improve their operating results.
For example, web-based job posting and application systems are growing more sophisticated. They now combine more attractive user interfaces with various-pre-screening filters that help Compass Group more efficiently sort out active vs. passive job candidates, said Danielle Larocca, director of HR information systems for that company.
Some other innovations: at Aramark, technology is allowing front line workers without bank accounts to receive wages via "pay cards" that can be used in lieu of bank debit cards for many of their purchases or to obtain cash, according to David Kahn, vice president-HR. And at Sodexho, webbased systems are helping the company deliver retail and culinary training to more employees at a lower cost than ever before, said Senior Director of Training Denise Ammaccapane.
Technology has become a critical enabler at point of sale, said Tony Kaszuba, vice president for Restaurant Marketing Associates. At client Harborside Financial Center in Jersey City, NJ, self-generated bar codes identify and track sandwiches and other items produced onsite, speeding register checkouts and helping to reduce shrink.
Self-serve kiosks and new "contactless" electronic payment options are poised to revolutionize cafè transactions, predicted Mark Buonagurio, a managing partner with Retail Automation Products, a value-added integrator of such systems. He cited retailers ranging from Burger King to Home Depot to Wawa convenience stores that are successfully moving in this direction and suggested that corporate serveries could be next. And at Marsh & McLennan Companies, Project Manager Kevin Frankenberger described efforts that have made several offices now 100 percent cashless.
Finally, a panel of three leading design consultants described how advances in kitchen equipment and facility design are improving the efficiency and capabilities of today's onsite operations. Ricca-Newmark's Leonard Condenzio predicted that new equipment ranging from ventilated ceilings, self-loading conveyors and improved return waste water systems would soon be available for U.S. installations.
Cini-Little's James Davella described advances in air-screen refrigerators, ultra-violet selfcleaning exhaust hoods and vertical merchandising systems. And Romano Gatland's Bob Pacifico offered a detailed analysis of how NAFEM's new data protocol standards will enable technologies as wide ranging as long distance equipment troubleshooting, remote order entry for customers in serveries and food safety monitoring equipment that will automate HACCP systems and data collection.