For Laura Lozano, globalization is an everyday reality. As facilities manager for the worldwide operations of high tech giant Dell, Inc., Lozano oversees two dozen dining sites in 11 countries on five continents.
Lozano prepared for her current role in a career that included early experience with commercial foodservice before migrating to B&I in a job with the team at the legendary Food Works division of Motorola, Inc.
There, she melded her talents with those of an all star team of managers and now goes on to be the fourth figure from the Food Works team to be recognized with a Silver Plate award in the B&I/Foodservice Management category.
In the years since she moved on from Motorola, Lozano has had stints with Compass Group and, most recently, Dell.
After Compass acquired Food Works in 2001, she spent more than four years with the company, initially with a large San Antonio based account. There, as part of a large team, she concentrated on installing Compass' then-new Balanced Choices program, a nutritional boon to the 15,000 onsite employees there.
She then moved on to serve as a regional director for Compass, overseeing multiple B&I accounts in the South and Southwest before leaving to join Dell. There, she has taken up a position “on the other side,” serving as the liaison who oversees the management companies that operate dining services at her sites.
What’s on Lozano’s Plate?
Sites: 24 in 11 countries
“When I joined Dell, we were out to bid with our largest account, which was in the U.S., and they wanted me to oversee that bid process and make sure we instilled effective standards and measurement criteria for whatever vendor we decided to go with,” she says.
Lozano's position at Dell is a challenging assignment, as she has to deal not only with different contractors in different operations, but populations coming from different cultures. To do that, she brought in new providers to facilities in the U.S. and Panama while establishing a strong relationship with the longtime vendor in Brazil.
The changes have facilitated development of a strong, customer-friendly wellness program across the system, an area of emphasis that has tapped a common interest among the various international sites.
Employee satisfaction surveys and sales figures show that Lozano is on the right track with this approach, even as she copes with head count reductions and building closures forced by the current economy.
“Our vendors have done a great job of really listening to the customers, looking at the surveys and then responding to them quickly to keep it new, keep it different,” she says. “I'm very proud of what they have done because in many cases they have actually increased participation in a very challenging environment.”
Lozano's current successes can be traced in part to a food-centric childhood in San Antonio filled with scratch-made Tex-Mex recipes and fresh, authentic ingredients. She sharpened that focus with several early career years with 1776, Inc., a San Antonio restaurant operator noted for its fresh ingredients and from-scratch approach
With Food Works, she started as a cafe manager at a small Motorola operation in Austin before working her way up through the ranks to become a district manager responsible for all six Motorola sites in Texas, serving some 12,000 meals a day 24-7.
First Person Singular...
My mom was a fabulous cook. When I was little, she would make our tortillas from scratch, regularly. I mean, we always had fresh vegetables and salads and things like that and it was important that we sit down as a family.
My older brother was a big influence on me. When he went off to college, he took a lot of quantity food production classes. He was majoring in animal science and just got me real interested in that, so I kind of followed his lead. I even went to work for the same company he did when I got out of school. My degree is in food science and technology with a nutrition specialty.
I started with Motorola as a café manager at just one small operation and then over time we built four new facilities in Texas and were running 24/7 operations. It was just a great dynamic time not only in the food industry but in semiconductors and Austin in general.
I remember being called in many times at three in the morning if one of our employees had to go home, somebody slipped and fell, that sort of thing. So I would have to go in and work regularly.
I think one thing we did differently at the time at Motorola was to grow with a building. So if the plan was to have 5,000 people in a particular structure eventually, we wouldn’t go in there and build a café for 5,000. Rather, we would build small grab-and-go units and then grow them as the building grew. While it was dif cult to operate in a smaller kitchen, it was really efficient and challenging.
I think the lesson I learned from Food Works was to get involved. Richard [Ysmael] would encourage us to join the NRA and SFM to get trained and get involved outside of our organization, to meet other people and to do benchmarking. Another lesson I learned was to ask questions about what’s new, what’s going on with food trends. We were especially encouraged to look at the commercial segments because that was our competition.
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First Person Singular...
After Compass acquired Food Works, one of the first things I got to do was help open up the Boeing business in Seattle, where I and many, many other people converted 48 units in 48 hours. The most rewarding thing about that project on a professional level was seeing the customers come in on Monday morning and being thrilled with the food they saw. That was so cool! On a more personal level, that project was also rewarding because it was where I met my husband, who was working for Compass at the time.
I was excited about the Boeing project because I’d never been to Seattle. Unfortunately, we were so busy, getting up at three or four in the morning and going til eight or nine at night that about all I saw of Seattle was Mt. Rainier when I stepped out the back dock door.
I left Compass because I had been in operations for a really long time and it was important for me to learn the business from the other side, from another perspective. Also, the international aspect of the Dell job really drew me.
I guess what was most surprising about the international operations at Dell was how similar they were. Even from country to country, when you go into the buildings, you know you’re still in a Dell account.
We find that almost anywhere that we do a survey, the first thing everybody complains about is pricing. It doesn’t matter where you are. The impact of the economy all over the world is surprisingly similar. And I’m not talking just at Dell. What I realized in my travels recently is that it really is a small world and what we do is much like that recent earthquake in Chile, which caused a tsunami somewhere else. What happens here affects overseas and vice versa.
In B&I, we’re going to have to do things differently than before. We have to think differently and pay attention to what college students are doing, what are they eating and how are they eating. I think we have to stay hand in hand with the guys in NACUFS and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing to keep these kids happy?’ Because what I nd is that our customer is increasingly sophisticated and even in a down economy they want value and they want good food.
I also think that we need to be cognizant of regional preferences. What works in Phoenix doesn’t necessarily work in California, which doesn’t work somewhere else. So the onesize-fits-all corporate marketing program really needs to be looked at on a regional basis. And that’s going to be increasingly dif cult as we decrease head counts.
I think that if an in-house foodservice isn’t costing a lot of money and is perceived as a value, then there’s no issue with justifying it. But if it’s highly subsidized, that’s where the difficulties lie. They are constantly looking at the costs and they will do that even more so when it comes to maintenance, smallwares and other things that aren’t obvious subsidies but that are costs to the corporation.