Cafeteria Management Insights

Custom Corporate Food Service: Corporate Dining Your Way

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Custom Corporate Food Service: Corporate Dining Your Way

Photo corporate food service employee serving employee.

A large electric power industry client in New York state is extremely happy with their new corporate food service provider, Café Services.

As the contract with the prior food service company was ending, the NY company sought bids from new corporate food service providers. The company’s facility director said his procurement team found four potential corporate dining providers and decided that Café Services’ high-level corporate food service program stood above their competition.

Café Services set themselves apart from all other vendors with their pricing being within budget, their food programs being focused on customization instead of cookie-cutter options, and their suggestions for innovation.

Beating Expectations: Corporate Food Service Quality and Presentation Well Above the Norm

Café Services strongly promotes eating well by using fresh, locally sourced foods at each of its client facilities and this made quite an impression. When touring client sites during the search phase of the bidding process, the NY facility’s director noticed the great fresh-food presentations. He said, “Café Services was a number of steps above what we had previously.”

Onsite chef manager, Rex Smith said, “Café Services promotes buying fresh and local. They let us find local vendors.” As an added touch, Rex advertises the farms he sources the fresh produce, apples, and maple syrup from, to make it personal for the employees.

The most common comment Rex has heard from the NY client since the transition is, “I’m having a hard time figuring out what I want to eat today, everything on the menu is so good.” Rex feels it’s a nice problem to have.

Photo of a corporate food service bread station.

The NY facility’s employees are a mix of those who want standard food and those willing to try new things. Rex said, “The core population seems very structured in what they eat and what they are used to, and they don’t waver much, but with interaction and talking to them, I can get them to try things. And that’s a fun part to me. I like to be out front to talk with them. I love making people happy with food. It’s why I’m in the business; it’s why we’re all in the business. It’s nice to have happy customers.”

Flexibility with menus involves everyone onsite. Rex noted that during the first month of Café Services being the corporate food service provider, an employee suggested a baked potato bar. It was on the menu the following week. Rex said, “Usually, if one person asks, it’s something that more people want. And if it’s popular, we keep it on. We’ll rotate it around.”

Noticeable Changes: Freshly Baked Foods and Digital Signage

Photo of freshly baked and prepared entree station by the corporate food service.

Transitioning from one corporate food service company over to Café Services resulted in a lot of positive changes for employees and the improvements show how Café Services pushes beyond expectations and is moving the industry forward.

The facility director said, “The menu boards above each station (deli, grill, main entrée, salad bar, and so on) give the cafe a high-tech look. People tended not to read the flyers that listed what was for lunch on a particular day, but they stop and look up at the boards to see what is offered.”

Another obvious change was the breakfast food offerings. Rex said, “Employees noticed the Danishes and muffins that we bake fresh every day. In the afternoon, the fresh salad bar and the homemade soups were welcome enhancements.”

Another positive and visible change was the diversity of the menu and how it is no longer repeating every three to four weeks. Some items may remain the same, but the menu is always changing.

Even onsite corporate catering has changed. Rex noted that the client can order from the catering menu, or order the entrée special of the day. The most popular catered request is on the new menu – the panini. “Clients don’t ask for sandwiches anymore,” Rex said, “they specifically ask for the paninis, which are always delicious.”

Photo of corporate food service self-checkout mini market.

Self-Checkout Corporate Cafeteria Keeps Fresh Food Available Around the Clock

Another point that had Café Services stand out from the competition was their suggestion of a micromarket to replace all vending machines at this NY facility.

The company now has an onsite mini market where employees can get fresh grab-and-go food and retail items such as power bars, chips, other snack foods, and beverages after hours.

The facility director said, “When we talked about vending services, Café Services told us about self-checkout. The self-checkout area with the additional snack foods lets people pick up stuff after hours, after lunch is over, or even on the weekends, then scan it, and go. It’s a significant change and the mini market is well-used.”

Read about how Café Services can fit micro markets that offer employees fresh food 24x7 into any size space and how they complement an onsite cafeteria.

Customer-Specific Corporate Food Management Program

Café Services offers clients maximum flexibility by enabling customization of the food service to their specific needs, such as organic options, micromarkets, and so on, in contrast to national corporate food service companies with inflexible tiered service offerings.

The facility director learned a lot about the customization options while touring various client facilities. “Café Services ran each client by giving the chef managers in each location the latitude to do what worked best in his location.” Catering to whatever the conditions are at a particular client impressed the facility director and other company personnel. He said, “We really liked that approach.”

Rex’s staff is now able to offer menu suggestions. He said, “Everyone gets a buy-in. If someone on my team makes a suggestion, we absolutely try it by putting it on the menu. That flexibility – that type of staff involvement – wasn’t available before.”

There is something different to try in the cafeteria each day now. The facility director said, “Every time I go down there, there is stuff I’ve never experienced before, and I try it and it’s delicious.”

Café Services’ Cafeteria Management Style

The final quality that struck home with the facility director when considering Café Services for the new corporate food dining company happened at their final bid meeting. Everyone who attended the meeting from Café Services had the same message: "We want to do whatever we have to do to make sure your people are happy and that you’re successful."

“It was not a sales pitch; the guys are actually all on the same page. They’re authentic. You just don’t see that in large corporate companies.”

Photo of corporate food service salad bar.

Café Services’ staff are empowered to make decisions. Everyone on the line is encouraged to resolve customer queries on the spot. Rex said, “By empowering my staff to take ownership of their areas and make decisions, it builds customer satisfaction. If we can make the customer happy, we do it in that moment.” Prior food service vendors didn’t allow this flexibility to anyone. Cafeteria staff know the employees by their names, so actual conversations take place. “We can try that,” is said now instead of, “Sorry, there’s nothing I can do for you.”

The facility director said, “Giving the cafeteria staff the ability to make everybody happy is working out pretty well.” Café Services truly lets the onsite chef manager and staff do what they need to do to make the client happy and make everyone feel a part of the overall Café Services family. “It’s a very friendly atmosphere that they’ve created,” the facility director said.

Smooth Transition to Café Services as the Corporate Food Service Provider

Photo of corporate food service salad bar.

The facility director noted that Café Services did a very good job setting everything up. “There were a lot of people here at the start,” he said. “A lot of support that included some chef managers to share their experiences, for example.” Processes got worked out and everything was up and running smoothly within a couple of weeks.

The facility director said, “Since that time, I probably see someone from the main office every couple or three weeks. They stop in to see how things are going. They all told me that if I ever need anything to contact them. They aren’t here every week and I don’t think they need to be. And since they basically let the chef manager manage the unit based on the unit’s needs, if I do need anything special from Café Services, that’s the first guy I go to – Rex. And because he can make decisions on behalf of the company, it works very well and is a great benefit.”

For Rex, the transition to Café Services from the prior vendor was mostly in food prep processes. “Café Services prides themselves on fresh – fresh ingredients, fresh soups, fresh muffins, fresh salad bar items, everything scratch made,” Rex said. “So, I learned how to delegate and how to get everything done in the morning to be ready for lunch. It was more fun than anything, and I love it."

“I have total flexibility for what is on the menu and I base it on customer comments and on how I feel the customer base eats. About fifty percent like to eat healthy and the other half likes traditional and comfort food, so we do both. We have a core menu, plus we have different stations and each station has different specials each day.”

Café Services’ Upper Management Support, Accessibility, and Engagement

The facility director appreciates the support he receives from both culinary and executive management. The VP of business development, district manager, and director of operations all met with the facility director to review the first subsidy invoice. He said, “I’d never had that kind of attention from a prior vendor.”

For Rex, as chef manager, corporate support is always available. He said, “If I have a question, it’s just a quick text and I’ll have an answer within minutes.”

Rex’s immediate manager, the district manager is usually onsite every couple of weeks to see how things are going.

Lower Subsidies and Increased Sales

Prior to Café Services, the NY company paid huge subsidies due to poor client participation and big overhead. The electric facility was simply another client for a large corporate entity that had to conform to specific programs and offerings, like them or not.

In less than six months with Café Services, the NY company has seen a noticeable decrease in subsidies and an increase in corporate dining participation and sales.

Online Resource Center for Café Services Employees

Another improvement that Rex appreciates with Café Services is a great online resource center. He said, “We can access anything from human resources, such as an employee handbook or right-to-know poster, to culinary support to station standards and documents like safety data sheets.” He noted that such information wasn’t readily accessible before. “Café Services spends a lot of time making things available online for us.”

What Is Best About Working with Café Services?

When asked to choose the best aspect of working with Café Services versus other vendors, Rex said, “The ability to be unique and have a unique café instead of being dictated to for the menu and how we present things is most important to me because every unit within the company is different; has a different type of employee or different eating habits and for me to be able to make decisions for what is on the menu is quite impressive.”

The facility director said, “We are very pleased with their service. I’ve been managing dining services for numerous years and the way Café Services’ is doing it in the industry, well, it is a real breath of fresh air. They have a lot of good ideas, innovation, and they get us whatever we ask for. They are being honest and open about everything. In the large food service vendors, you don’t see a lot of that. That really sets them apart for me.”

And if that isn’t enough, employees are often telling the facility director that he made the right choice in switching over to Café Services. He said, “The quality of the food is definitely better, definitely fresher than what we had before. And I know the prices are great because no one has complained about any of the food being too expensive.”

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