For corporations, schools, and health care facilities, executives are now being offered the best alternatives they've ever had to improve the quality of their food service operation while, at the same time, reducing their costs. What's driving this trend? Food or Cafeteria Service companies are now becoming more specialized thus offering the hiring corporation a variety of outsourced choices with the specific expertise and experience they need in order for the company/vendor relationship to be hugely successful. A true partnership. Cafeteria Service companies are more and more focused on the needs of just one or two specific industries, e.g. corporate dining, as well as seeking out market niches based on size of the user community. This makes the service company much more well-versed with greater insight into the issues the hiring company faces than ever before. They're becoming more like employees with all of the many advantages that a specialized outsourced vendor provides. It's a great model. Hiring a food service partner to handle all of your employee dining needs is a smart decision for a variety of reasons. Some of the benefits fall into the side of the ledger of the financial and quality benefits that your cafeteria food service partner brings to the table while others are a result of the savings and increased productivity you'll realize by replacing relatively untrained and expensive labor with more productive and less expensive experts in their field. Let's take a look at some of the more obvious issues that underlie the changing marketplace today. 1. Local Competition: You may not realize it but Food Service is a highly competitive business. Your customers (employees and guests) fully expect that your dining facilities and food be at the least on a par with nearby dine-in restaurants. That's the competition. Having true food service professionals plan, cook and deliver all of your menu items provides a dining experience that is closest to this objective. 2. The "new" menu expectations: The days of "if it's Thursday, it must be Sloppy Joe" day are long since over. Your dining employees and guests are far more informed and discerning when it comes to being health conscious. They expect fine food that has taste but as important, nutritional value. Menus must be carefully designed so that they deliver options that combine great taste with low sugar as well as low fat. Only a trained cafeteria service chef has the training and practical experience to deliver on this 365 days a year. In the past, some food service companies provided mostly processed, pre-packaged foods with long shelf lives. Those days are gone as well. Your cafeteria is best left in the hands of professionals with state-of-the-art training. Your diners' expectations have changed, but so has the art of culinary planning and preparation. 3. The basic cost of goods sold: This is truly simple mathematics. If your current Food Service operation is strictly being run "in-house" then your cafeteria service team is purchasing all food goods based on your institutional needs alone. But if your Food Service partner is a third-party vendor, the chances are near 100% that they serve other clients as well. They purchase for all of them and collectively they have a purchase power far beyond yours. This bulk buying power results in cost savings that are passed onto your company. 4. Access to ongoing health training and beyond: Part of what you engage when you hire an outsourced cafeteria food service manager is their constant and current knowledge. It's part of the value they bring to the table. In the educational marketplace for example, there are nutritional guidelines that must be followed, and they change regularly. Are you confident that your in-house employee team is fully up-to-speed, or is this a line item that is all too easy to cut? In addition, attention to employee’s cultural and social eating preferences are critical in choice of fare as are ethnic and religious practices. Is there something special or unique about your company? Your Food Service team should be aware of regional preferences and local events that are food associated which could be included in your menu planning to build enthusiasm and customer loyalty. 5. Preserve your precious budget dollars: Ask yourself this. Are corporate work hours better spent on growing a business or managing a company cafeteria? Hiring a cafeteria services firm frees you to focus your time and efforts on company business. Efficiency is another incentive. Cafeteria services firms are experienced in efficient kitchen and dining room operations, have working partnerships with food vendors in place, are familiar with health codes and regulations, are experienced with financial operations, and are able to quickly implement and enforce guidelines for cafeteria employees, saving training time and resources. Can you afford to train your mission-critical staff on these tasks among the many other projects that have a higher value for your company? Their time and energy is more appropriately placed on your core business. And let's not forget. You don't pay benefits-related expenses for contract personnel. 6. Customize your relationship: Unlike an in-house functionality, cafeteria service companies offer their service for hire in several ways. If you have decided to continue to self-operate your cafeteria and just need a little guidance, contracting for consulting services may be the way to go. Do you want on-site meal preparation or is food prepared at another facility and brought in more acceptable for your specific needs. Your options are vast. Menu planning, food offered or served, purchasing of food, buying local, recipes used, personnel hiring, retaining current personnel, cleaning services, vending machines, special events, catering, coffee service, cafeteria design, complete control or minimal control. All are important options for effectively serving your employee needs. 7. Bottom line accountability: Like all others, your company has an organization chart that outlines both responsibility and accountability. If you've kept your cafeteria services function in-house to date, then look at the chart. Ultimately, the most senior person who has responsibility for food services is NOT a trained food management professional. Is this smart? Would you think it true for any other department, particularly with one as costly. Unlikely. There are simply too many sound business reasons for you to maintain all Food Service responsibility within the company any longer. You have bright, hard-working, well-trained and economical alternatives to consider. You should start today.