|(top) Aramark Chef Andy Bain offers SFM attendees a cooking demo; (at l.) Sally Minier (l.) with Tracy Kelly of Sodexo; (above) Kent Bain of Wood Bain Associates LLC (l.) and Jay Silverstein of Credit Suisse|
It was the day before Tax Day when approximately 160 members of the Society for Foodservice Management (SFM) convened at New York University's Kimmel Center in Manhattan for the eighth annual Critical Issues Conference. Although the state of their own personal finances was top of mind, attendees were eager to look at the bigger picture, as well.
Among the presentations was a panel discussing how operators can “Rebuild, Restock and Redesign” their facilities. It included Robert Cottrell, CFM, founder of Facilities Management Partners; Laura Gimpel, facilities manager, Google, NYC; Kathleen Seeyle, president of Ricca-Newmark Designs; and Charles Stock, vice president of dining services for JP MorganChase.
According to Stock, operators need to look at both the menu offering and facility modification in right-sizing points of service. He suggests creating a commissary as a viable alternative or addition since nationally branded products have transformed vending. “You can utilize modular components to wall off a section of the service area if you no longer have the building population to warrant the space,” he says.
If you need to reduce staff to stem an operating loss, as he did, bringing in a reputable, convenient, high-value product like Quiznos could turn the tide. In his case, he reduced staff from six to 1.5 FTEs, and his operating loss decreased by two-thirds. “The challenge,” Stock says, “is doing more with less.”
Google's Gimpel suggests asking yourself and your team one simple question: “When is a café not a café?” You'll probably discover it can be utilized for meetings; for a client event by perhaps turning it into a sports bar; or even a place to host a Bring Your Child to Work Day. “Consider flexible, simple solutions in purchasing furniture and AV,” she says. “Add up the costs, then make informed decisions.”
Seeyle contends it's all about Attitude and Awareness — “and really understanding the building you're in; identifying the various paths employees use” so that you can better place serveries, to-go cafes, etc. Determine what new opportunities are possible in repurposing spaces and do look into creating a “food emporium” as a high revenue retail concept, she added.
Finally, she suggested creating two or three served or self-serve kiosks at the crossroads within the building that can be expandable when business picks up. “All should be compatible if you need to place them together in the future.”
During a brief Q&A session, Gimpel posed a pertinent question that lies at the heart of onsite foodservice: “We need to ask ourselves, ‘What is the reason to have a café?’ If the purpose is to build relationships, versus just delivering a hot dog, then people need to sit at a table and talk.”