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Remembering Jack Galione—A Tribute

Whenever an industry leader passes away we routinely mark it as the “End of an Era” maybe so, but Jack Galione was a distinguished member of a cadre of professional foodservice operators and up- start entrepreneurs who were the “Start of an New Era”, one that totally transformed and modernized all that was once characterized as institutional foodservice.

In 1964 a young 26 year old Jack Galione was honing his management skills as the café manager at Orbach’s Department in New York City, a client account of Interstate United Corp. Jack was a young guy in a rush to be his own boss, and so, wisely he chose employment with Interstate United Corp to learn all he could about contract food service management. 

IUC was a well-managed, highly regarded national food service management company that held the competitive high ground in NYC. They were staffed with some of the industry’s most knowledgeable and talented operators at every level in the organization.    

Jack was on a fast track with IUC absorbing every bit of knowledge he could from these pros in what was then known as in-plant feeding.  These were real pioneers who collectively set in motion the process of “de-institutionalizing institutional foodservice”.  

Jack took it all in especially the legion of details, disciplines, procedures, forms etc. that provided the necessary administrative foundation that was a fundamental requirement needed to operate someone else’s business on a fee basis. He was especially tuned in on very bit of wisdom offered up by Mickey Warner Ph.D, a long-time executive at Interstate United who penned two books prior to his quintessential industry tome, Industrial Foodservice and Cafeteria Management published in 1972 as a teaching guide for the Culinary Institute of America. Jack the student soon became Jack the entrepreneur.

Despite a bright and promising future at Interstate, in 1971 with a $1,500 loan from his mother-in-law, Jack founded Corporate Food Service, Inc. in New York City. He did what all entrepreneurs had to do: everything and anything to avoid failure, so driving cabs at night in New York City was just another financial necessity.  

He built a business by attracting and retaining quality clients and providing  to them an uncompromised level of high quality products and services. Jack wanted to be the best in the business and so it seemed logical that his core operating policy would be to serve the best to the best. 

These were not just words for a cutsey wall plaque. It was a commitment that was met by keeping Corporate Food Services Inc. a small, focused and nibble company, targeting clients that were top tier financial houses and highly respected law firms. 

Jack instinctively knew that quality control can only be achieved by limiting CFS to a manageable size. By design CFS evolved into the first boutique contract food service management company in NYC, if not nationally.   

Jack always put actions over words. In later years at a conference he was asked how he defined his quality standards, his answer in a nano second was: “Standards are benchmarks below which I won’t go." 

He was particularly proud of rejecting an RFP from a client who specified some inferior products. No matter how much the fee would be, he inherently knew that if he was ever asked by a client to serve “round turkey and square fish” that his company’s reputation for quality would be forever shattered along with its future.   

His obsession with quality knew no limits and was always in evidence because he understood that his company was defined entirely by everything the customer saw, smelled or touched within the dining environment he controlled. I recall Jack pulling the plug on a long term client and walking away from a $150,000 annual management fee because the client wanted to make draconian cost cuts that Jack felt would have seriously compromised his quality standards. That was an amazing demonstration of his dedication to his core values.   

Corporate Food Service soon became the quality standard below which its competitors would seek to avoid. By the late 70’s, CFS had achieved a unique position in the market, one of not having to respond to an RFP. The amount of “no bid contracts” that were outright handed to Jack grew as his reputation grew. How great was that?

Jack made the business fun; the work exciting, the atmosphere social and successfully mixed it all together leaving many wondering whether it was business that was concluded or did they just leave a party.  Jack was a charming, effervescent guy with the kind of “can do” confidence that assured even the worst naysayer in the room that success was inevitable.

He gave 100% to his company, another 100% to the NYC Meals-on-Wheels program and SCAN a program that rescued abused children, and in his spare time was a founding member of SHFM (formerly SFM), served as a member of the Board of Directors, was honored with a 1983 IFMA Silver Plate Award, served as Chairman of the Gold and Silver Plate Society in 1990, and was active in the Young Presidents Organization (when he was young, of course).

Jack was Mr. New York City—he worked in New York City, lived in New York City and despite a recent plan to “escape from New York “ he passed away there. 

Jack Galione truly understood the reality of life, that we’re not here for a long time; we’re here for a good time.  Those of us who knew and loved Jack know that he had a really good time…Rest in Peace old friend.

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