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Star Achievers

Star Achievers



The strengths that characterize each year's IFMA Silver Plate winners inevitably vary. What they always have in common are reputations as standard bearers for their segments and careers that demonstrate commitment to their roles as foodservice leaders. In this special feature section you'll meet...

Patti Dollarhide, whose efforts to integrate the foodservice operations of two leading Wichita hospitals provide a classic case study in how a hospitality services philosophy can transform the look, feel and financials of hospital foodservice...

John Peukert, a child nutrition champion who used business principles from the chain restaurant segment to successfully grow his San Bernardino school district by nearly tenfold over the last two decades...

Pat Bando, team and morale-builder extraordinaire, whose efforts to upgrade the food, facilities and services at Boston College have helped the school triple its participation rate since 1995...

Gary Gunderson, a busboy-turned-executive whose career-long commitment to raising the standards in corporate dining have placed him at the forefront of the B&I community... and Terri Moreman, an Olympic performer in her own right, whose oversight of foodservices for the U.S. Olympic athletes and staff have earned her IFMA's silver medal and the industry's recogition for going the extra mile.

Join us in recognizing and applauding the accomplishments that have earned each of these standard bearers a place at the head table during IFMA's Silver Plate gala later this month...


Patti Dollarhide R.D.
Director, Nutrition Services
Via Christi Regional Medical Center
Wichita, KS

What's on Dollarhide's Plate?

NAME: Via Christi Regional Medical Center




TOTAL MEALS (FY '03): 2.65 million

Growing up on a farm in the breadbasket of America amidst the daytoday duties of production agriculture has given Patti Dollarhide a true appreciation for all things food.

"Most people take food for granted," says the Kansas native, "but I was raised cooking and growing it. Food was always my first love and I knew early on that I wanted to do something in the field."

That interest propelled Dollarhide into dietetics and eventually to Wichita's Via Christi Regional Medical Center. Coined the " Wichita Network," that operation encompasses two major acute-care hospitals (St. Francis, a 600-bed facility and St. Joseph's, a 300-bed facility), a 60-bed rehabilitation campus, an 80-bed psychiatric facility and a 60-bed community hospital. Together they generate an annual cash revenue of $4 million with an additional $2.7 million in free meals, discounts, patient charges and in-house catering.

Dollarhide's 21-year career with Via Christi has progressed from a post as the dietitian at St. Joseph's to nutrition and foodservice director for all its Wichita operations. The path to her current position has been both rewarding and challenging.

In 1995, St. Joseph's and St. Francis hospitals merged, combining the businesses of two equally charitable, but very different healthcare ministries. "The merger took two orders of Roman Catholic nuns—with different cultures but similar values and who essentially had been competing for more than a century—and made them coowners," explains Dollarhide.

As foodservice director of the newly created Via Christi healthcare network, Dollarhide admits she made some mistakes along the way.

"Initially we tried to run the two main hospitals as one unit. We were sharing management and production responsibilities for both campuses out of one hospital and it was too much, we lost focus," she says. "Eventually I realized that we're not too different from a franchise in that we are trying to do the same things—drive consistency and improve quality. We took a long, hard look at everyone's responsibilities in our operation and figured how to best utilize our resources."

That change in strategy paid off—under Dollarhide's leadership non-patient business and revenue have increased, staffing has been reduced without sacrificing services, and customer and patient satisfaction is high. It was industry-wide recognition of these accomplishments and others that earned Dollarhide the IFMA Silver Plate award for healthcare.

"We're still trying to come down out of the clouds," jokes Dollarhide, who credits much of her success to a management team made up of trained culinary professionals from all walks of the business, including hotels, fine dining, casual dining and catering. "Before I began hiring employees with hospitality backgrounds, we had trouble meeting the increased service standards that are expected today.

"That's all changed," she continues. " Bringing in people from restaurants and hotels has changed the dynamics of our operation and created excitement. It also helped us address our shortcomings. In our restaurants, for example, we had a wonderful group of backofthe-house "foodies," but nobody to focus on front-of-the-house business. So we actively recruited for those skills."

Hiring highly motivated, trained people is only part of the equation. As a manager, it's important to give employees respect and show appreciation for their work, says Dollarhide. That's why she's a big believer in the power of a "thank-you."

"People need to know they are appreciated," she says. "They also need to know what you expect of them, how they are doing and how their contribution relates to the business." Dollarhide and her staff send thankyou notes to individual employees on a weekly basis along with cards to mark yearly hire dates and birthdays. Little things like these go a long way—in the last three years, the turnover rate has dropped from 46 to 22%.

Another key to Dollarhide's success has been keeping her eyes open to what the rest of the industry is doing, and her ears tuned to what customers want. "Some of the best advice I ever received came from a good friend and prominent hospital foodservice director who told me to get involved in the industry," says Dollarhide. "I learned much from participating in manufacturer advisory groups and attending association functions like those of the National Society for Healthcare Foodservice Management (HFM, for which Dollarhide is incoming president.)

"It was fascinating to meet people from different segments and realize that we are all in the same business with the same goals."

Dollarhide learns a lot about what works and doesn't work in other facilities, too, by listening to her distributors. "Distributors visit all kinds of operations and are very open to sharing information," she says.

"Employees need to know what is expected of them and how their contribution relates to the business."

One concept that's been an overwhelming success in Dollarhide's operation is a station called Fresh & Lean. The idea is healthful, full-flavor, made-to-order entrèes—most of which have fewer than 500 calories— served at display-style cooking stations in the dining areas. The entrèes, at five dollars each, bring in almost two dollars more than the hospital's daily check average. This has increased weekly revenues by $2,400. "I always wanted to inspire healthy eating in the cafeteria," says Dollarhide, "so Fresh & Lean has been a very fulfilling project."

Flavorful, satisfying foods aren't limited to the hospitals' retail areas. On the patient side, customers are served room-service style, where they can order from a menu and have their food delivered at specific times of day. "As we get closer to serving what the patient wants to eat and stop playing at being the 'food police,' we continue to decrease rework and food waste," says Dollarhide. Seeing a patient's eyes light up when offered a grilled cheese sandwich with potato chips is much more rewarding than throwing uneaten turkey tetrazzini away.

"Much of the success of room service is letting patients tell us exactly what they want to eat," she says. "The caveat, however, is that it must be within 'doctor's orders.' As healthcare providers, we need to re-evaluate the objective of feeding people. That may mean loosening up and paying more attention to the needs of specific patients. In our facility, patients stay an average of 4.7 days. I'm not going to be able to change their eating habits in that space of time. I can, however, provide flavorful food that makes their stay more comfortable and helps them get well. As a hospital, that's our ultimate goal."

Combatting Turnover

"You have to take time to hire motivated people and then treat them with respect," says Patti Dollarhide, summarizing her management philosophy. That guiding principle has reduced foodservice employee turnover at Via Christi Regional Medical Center from 46 to 22% in the past three years. How does she put that principle into action?

Leveraging the power of a thank you.
Dollarhide and her management staff write thank you notes to individual employees each week and mail the notes to their homes. They also acknowledge hire dates and birthdays with cards.

Make coaching a full-time job.
"People like to know they are doing a good job," says Dollarhide.That's why she sits down with each employee at least four times per year to discuss what's going right and what isn't."Before this procedure was in place, we didn't spend enough time coaching people until we were in the heat of a crisis," she says. "The new process has made a big difference."

Hire carefully, for the long-term.
"Be particular about who you hire," says Dollarhide, whose management team encompasses a wide range of trained foodservice professionals from hotels, restaurants and catering. "Hiring the right people has made all the difference in our operation," she says.

Dress employees for success. Dollarhide believes in dressing for success. In other words, have employees wear uniforms and they'll receive more respect. One example of how she puts that philosophy to work is by providing chef jackets to each cook.

"You want to encourage staff to take pride in a professional image and treat foodservice as a career," says Dollarhide. "That way they command more respect and see themselves as professionals at what they do."


John Peukert
Assistant to the Superintendant,
Business Operations San Bernardino City Unified School District
San Bernardino, California

What's on Peukert's Plate?


LOCATIONS SERVED: 63 schools, 31 outside contracts


ANNUAL BUDGET: $24 million


When it comes to school foodservice, John Peukert just "gets" it. One of the first of his generation of directors to introduce savvy commercial restaurant business practices into the realm of school foodservice administration, Peukert also recognizes and cultivates the particular aspects of this sector that produce its own unique culture.

"There's an underlying feeling of social togetherness in foodservice in general," he says. "It's a warm environment, in which you're doing things for other people that meet their needs. They're happy, and that's an instant reward. But when it's school foodservice, you're able to help needy children, help establish good eating habits for future generations, and have a direct impact on the community."

Foodservice of one sort or another has been at the heart of Peukert's life since the beginning, growing up as the son of a single mother who worked in the local school cafeteria. At age 15, fibbing about his date of birth in order to secure a night job, he started work as a bus boy for a Carl's Jr.

Charbroiler in Southern California. Stints in the dishroom and fountain followed, punctuated by a summer job at Kraft Foods, first on the sanitation shift and then the production line, making marshmallows.

After high school, Peukert returned for a 12-year run at Carl Karcher Enterprises, moving up from manager trainee to district manager. That commercial business experience made him the ideal candidate, in 1983, to help turn around the troubled San Bernardino City Unified School District.

"The years in private industry taught me important lessons about operating a business that are easily transferable to school foodservice," he says. "Bringing private industry structure into school foodservice was key to changing around the whole program and moving it forward. But you also have to bring along the creativity you need in commercial business in order to survive and advance."

Upon arrival, with the foodservice department living off its reserves, and several school kitchens preparing up to 7,000 same-day-service meals in facilities designed to produce only 500 to 800 meals per day, Peukert faced the staggering challenge of an entire organizational overhaul. But he pulled it off.

"In school foodservice, you're able to have a direct impact on the community."

His solutions included designing and constructing an $8 million, 46,000 square-foot, cook-chill Nutrition Center with 40,000 meals-per-day capacity; updating and computerizing systems, replacing old cash boxes in the cafeterias with POS technology; remodeling school cafeterias; reorganizing staff for better efficiency; and fullout marketing school foodservice with creative, life-size mascots, cafeteria theme dècor, nutrition education programs, and plenty of self-branding in order to increase participation and perception.

A quick look at some before-and-after stats:

  • The current budget is $24 million; it was $2 million when Peukert began in 1983.
  • The centralized kitchen currently produces 300 meals per labor hour; in 1983, the department averaged 25 meals per labor hour.
  • A computer inventory system has reduced the number of distributors from 25 to 4.
  • Revenue generating efforts have brought in $1 million over five years from an exclusive beverage contract; 31 outside contract sites now account for 6% of the budget; and catering revenues have grown 45%.

One very visible reward from Peukert and his staff's efforts is the participation rate of 84% in the district's school lunch program. Breakfast is now served in all district schools, and an after school snack program has taken off in over half the sites, with further expansion in the works.

Without a doubt, Peukert's department is a sterling example of the importance of adapting good business techniques to nutrition programs. But beyond that, he has built the success of his department by encouraging the community emphasis inherent in school foodservice. "As a support program for the district, we're always looking for ways to work as a team and support it," he says.

Hence, the development of such projects as a foodservice student work program, which takes care of short, hard-to-fill department shifts while providing much-needed income and high school credit for 150 students.

"The great thing about the program," Peukert emphasizes, "is that students can enter in the ninth grade at $6.25 per hour, and with every additional semester they work, they earn a 25 cent per hour increase. That won't buy them a car, but it's a good way to learn basic job skills and get a pay check."

Begun in 1991, the program has seen many students through college as well. "They'll come back and work here three to five hours to earn money during their studies," he notes. For others, the exposure and positive experience sparks interest in a future career path. "We've had a number of high school students in the work program that end up going over to the culinary program at Valley College [the local community college]."

Peukert also donated use of a room at one of his facilities for use by a continuation high school as a foodservice training site. "We'd been looking to open up a lunch room in one of our office buildings, and they were looking for a location to develop an alternative education program for students,"he says. The joint effort resulted in Maggie's Cafè, a coffee shop open to the public that's augmented with student help, under the department's supervision. Students do prep work, cashiering and other tasks in order to gain marketable job skills.

When Peukert designed the Nutrition Center, he made sure to include a culinary classroom area. When not in use for staff, he has set up Culinary Mini Camps ( usually over the summer) to provide instruction and career guidance for kids.

What's up next? Since Peukert's title change last July (from director of nutrition services to his current position with expanded duties into purchasing and building services), he has turned over day-to-day department activities to his successor. But he still has big plans for the department.

"I'm working now on polishing and packaging our program as an alternative for other districts," he explains. "It would be a way to assist other districts and share options and marketing efforts with them."

Continuous Innovation

With a slew of creative accomplishments to his credit, John Peukert continues to develop new concepts that help retain freshness and interest in his operation. Here's what he recommends:

Keep watching your environment. Keep asking yourself, where should we be, what is left to do?

Actively look for what you can improve upon. Don't wait for suggestions to be handed down to you.

Remember to keep your program enjoyable. Everyone wants to have fun at meal service. It's good for morale, self-esteem and staff retention. Spend time looking for ways to keep your people happy.

Never become complacent. Get past the mentality that "things are okay the way they are."

Make the best possible use of facilities and resources you have to further your own or the district's programs. For example, Peukert utilized his executive chef to establish summer culinary mini-camps; he coordinated a student work program to provide foodservice jobs for high schoolers and extra help for the department; and he offered a foodservice department facility as a site to establish a separate, public cafè in which high school students work and learn basic skills.


Patricia Bando R.D.
Director, Dining Services
Boston College
Chestnut Hill, MA

What's on Bando's Plate?

NAME: Boston College

FOODSERVICE FTEs: 171 staff members and 50 managers and administrative staff



TOTAL MEALS (FY '03): 3,958,500



Pat Bando jokes that she's a bit like a manager in a Dilbert cartoon— "I can be tough, but I'm also fair." Perhaps more to the point, she is a leader who demands the best from her team and gives her best in return. Bando admits that one of her greatest strengths, and sometimes her biggest weakness, is a need to excel. She expects that same unwavering dedication to excellence from her team. The results of that attitude speak for themselves, and to Bando's selection as the 2004 Silver Plate winner in the college/university segment.

Numbers, as well as attitude, tell Bando's story. She took the director's chair for Boston College Dining Services nearly a decade ago. Since then sales have grown 42%, participation has nearly doubled and annual revenues now top $27 million.

"My goal is for us to be the best and it's paying off," she says. "When people talk about great college foodservice, I want them to immediately think of Boston College."

Her Dining Services team lives by the mantra, "Ever to Excel in FACT: Food, Attitude, Customer service and Teamwork."

"Sticking to that has been my strength and my spine," Bando says. "It's helped me bring this group together so that everyone understands what we are all about."

Bando also is a big believer in accountability. "I try to create a happy work environment with mutual respect between employees and management.

Part of that means holding people accountable," she says. "A cook who takes a shortcut on the presentation of a dish is letting the whole team down and must be held accountable. The same goes for management."

The evolution of Bando's food management philosophy didn't begin in the college and university segment, but in hospital dining at the 1,200-bed New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

"I started out on the clinical side, as a dietetitian," she says. "But after a few years, I realized I was more interested in the administrative side of things."

The early years proved valuable, however. "That facility employed a large staff and my experience there has helped me to this day, particularly in managing people," she explains.

Bando got her chance to refine her management skills in a college setting when Cornell University came knocking, looking for a new foodservice manager. "I had already learned a lot about the business side of foodservice—the behind-thescenes work of getting food flowing from the kitchen to the dining room. But my experience at Cornell University helped me understand how important it is to mesh production systems with the people who make it all happen."

"We actively campaign to keep students in the meal plans by offering foods that compete in quality, price and service with Boston's many restaurants."

After 10 years at Cornell, opportunity knocked again when Boston College recruited Bando to become its foodservice director in 1995. BC, a large, urban university with 9,700 undergrad and 4,600 grad students, boasts three main dining halls and a handful of other campus restaurants, concessions, catering and vending facilities. Under Bando's leadership, participation in the meal plans has increased from 6,900 to 10,000 students. That's an amazing number considering that only 4,050 students are on a mandatory plan.

"When I first came to the university we didn't push students to participate in meal plans after their mandatory two years were up," she explains. "We had to actively campaign to get them to keep up the plan voluntarily. We did that by offering foods that compete in quality, price and service with our immediate competition—Boston's restaurants."

Getting the university administration to subscribe to the notion that campus dining needed to be truly competitive was difficult. "There was a misunderstanding that students had to eat what the university offered. But as everyone in campus dining knows all too well—they don't," says Bando. "We had to educate the management team and let go of any pre-conceived ideas of how ' institutional' foodservice should work."

Key to that was modernizing existing facilities and adding new, "chic" dining spaces, as well as enhancing menu offerings and adding special touches such as exhibition cooking and bake-off capabilities.

Renovations at two of the main dining halls turned the aging facilities into lively marketplaces, ultimately boosting sales and check averages. One particularly successful venture, the Hillside Cafè, is a 150-seat bistro offering upscale made-to-order and grab-n-go goodies including gourmet Tuscan bread sandwiches, homemade potato chips and specialty espresso and smoothies. "When the Hillside Cafè opened about a year and half ago, it was projected to do about 1,000 covers per day," says Bando. "We tripled that within its first month of operation and its been going gangbusters ever since."

Bando credits that success to the cafè's unique "downtown" atmosphere and highquality menu offerings. "It's rare for students and faculty to eat at the same place, but this cafè has truly been a crossroads on campus," says Bando. "The menu is simple but appealing. We offer two different types of panini sandwiches each day and six gourmet sandwiches. It's also one of the locations onsite where we bake off desserts."

To keep Hillside Cafè and other facilities humming, BC's Dining Services employs a diverse staff of more than 200 full-time professionals and over 900 part-time staffers. Recognizing that a satisfied staff brings satisfied customers, the department seeks to be considered "Employer of Choice," and was nationally recognized as such by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation last year.

To Bando, that means offering competitive salary packages, employee recognition programs and extensive training opportunities. "Training in this business is key because it's an industry in which many people are brought up by their bootstraps, so to speak— those who work the hardest tend to get the promotions," says Bando. "As managers, we must be careful not to set them up for failure by putting them in situations in which they have little or no training."

When it comes to training, BC Dining Services offers a seemingly endless variety of classes including food safety, handling and sanitation, NRA Serv-Safe, culinary workshops, computer technology, business writing, and management and diversity training.

"I don't think anyone in our organization can say they haven't had opportunities to learn and develop additional skill sets," she says. "Ultimately, though, it's up to each individual to take advantage of those opportunities. And it's up to us to encourage them."

Invest in Training

Train, train, train.That's the key to success for BC's Dining Services Department, according to Pat Bando, director. Here are some of the ways training fits into her operation.

Start from the top: "It's important to educate your management team first because they have to educate team members who report to them," Bando reasons. She believes in training up and down the ladder.All Dining Services employees attend extensive food safety, handling/sanitation training, but managers and lead employees must also attend interpersonal communication and management classes.

Food 101: BC Dining Services invested two years of culinary training with the New England Culinary Institute to "bring all operational managers and chefs to at least a minimal level of culinary competency for which they are held accountable," says Bando. Full-time employees who complete Culinary Certification at a local university receive tuition reimbursement.

People skills: With a crew of more than 1,100 people, many of which from different countries, diversity training is key."Cultural differences can sometimes create communication gaps," says Bando."It's important to teach people about respecting one another's differences and how to effectively communicate." Formal diversity training workshops include such topics as: Finding a Common Ground Through Language; Kitchen Spanish for Managers, and the Value of English as a Second Language.

Communication skills: Because supervisors are often expected to generate reports, Dining Services provides business writing and computer classes."We try to provide the skill sets and competencies our employees need to succeed. Sometimes that includes skills that aren't foodservice-specific."


Gary Gunderson
Director of Dining & Hospitality Services
MBNA Corp.
Wilmington, DE

What's on Gunderson's Plate?


ANNUAL BUDGET: $45 Million


NO. OF CLIENT EMPLOYEES: 28,500 (worldwide)

Gary Gunderson looks like he works for a bank. Straight laced, conservatively dressed and matterof-fact in speech and demeanor, he is the picture of rock-solid stolidity.

Of course, Gunderson does work for a bank—the world's largest independent credit card issuer, with managed loans in excess of $100 billion. As executive vice president and director of dining and hospitality services for MBNA Corp., he oversees an international operation that encompasses 28 cafes, 13 retail stores, 11 major vending sites, 8 daycare operations and catering ranging from major events to daily conferences.

It is for an exemplary 28-year foo

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