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Camp Foodservice Consulting Case Study – Improved Service, Satisfaction, Sanitation and Costs

Surprise Lake Camp Case Study

A Unique Foodservice Consulting Assignment

Surprise Lake Camp (SLC) in Putnam County New York desired improved food offerings and a service delivery focus to their campers and staff, along with any reduction in costs that could be realized. Leadership outlined concerns from the beginning with camper satisfaction to take priority in food quality and the delivery to dining rooms at the top of the list. Lopolito was brought in for foodservice consulting, and a 16-week contract was agreed upon to begin addressing menus, sanitation, training, ordering, and other conditions in pursuing improvements.

Situation Background

SLC is a kosher operation with one leading chef, two assistant chefs, and 40 support staff. Oversight by a Mashgiach is required to support a kosher facility. There are four kitchen facilities with three on what is called Main Side and one on Teen Side, with Teen Side kitchen a ½ mile trek to the opposite side of a large beautiful lake. SLC serves approximately 750 meals 3 times each day seven days a week, in addition to other food service needs each day. The coordination of foodservice has specific timing intervals throughout the day with strict staff protocols necessary to meet this demand. The Main Side Kitchens are separated in cooking meat and dairy on the ground level, and the Parve kitchen is on the second floor along with the
bakery. The Teen Side Kitchen is separated in cooking only meat and dairy and daily deliveries of product are necessary to support them.

Assignment Introduction

Upon LHC’s foodservice consultants arriving at SLC it was clear that there were a number of opportunities for improvement. Dry storage was disorganized, inventory was removed without process, freezer storage was limited and prevented effective ordering, ordering practices did not have accountability, and small wares like cutting boards, knives, and other preparation equipment needed to be replaced. Sanitation training was going to be a key focus with most of the 45 crew members being new employees for the 4 kitchens and 4 dining rooms. Additionally, eight weeks of menus needed to be discussed and revised, upgrades to product discussed, and prior years operational protocols needed to be understood and revised where necessary.

Meetings with the chef of 11 years were arranged to review anticipated menus for the season, and a full walk through of the kitchens took place to understand equipment needs and workflow patterns. The initial few weeks was preparation and organization for the arrival of the approximate five hundred campers and two hundred and fifty employees, but during startup a staff of about 50 were on property to prepare. Past Inventory practices were for staff to take supplies as needed without regard to issuing, par levels, or organizational controls. This in turn caused time delays in locating product, product outs, and last minute changes to menus. The leading chef demanded that the needs of the kitchens and dining room were immediate and the staff must be able to take anything they needed quickly and without burden. However, this practice did not allow for efficiency, caused elevated expenses, and resulted in a disorganization of inventory.

Case Observations Presentation

This is an overnight camp with 500 campers, 250 staff, serving 2250 meals per day seven days a week with a relatively new staff each season to coordinate and train.

  1. Food and beverage and all paper good costs needed to be addressed.
  2. The large inventory of dry and paper goods was untidy and carelessly stored.
  3. The chefs, cooks & dining staff removed inventory without regard to proper inventory procedures.
  4. Foodservice delivery to the four dining rooms was not timely and required improvement.
  5. Sanitation policies and cleanliness effectiveness required some improvements.
  6. The quality of certain proteins and main food ingredients required improvements.
  7. Freezer capacities were limited and past limitations caused shorts and storage difficulties.

Lopolito Hospitality Project Management and Foodservice Consulting Outcome

This project was effort intensive and Lopolito formed new ideas to meet the demands of this camp environment while adhering to commercial foodservice best practices. Providing product rapidly from inventory to the Main Side Kitchens became the first of many challenges. Secondary but equally important was the daily issue and orderly delivery to the Teen Side Kitchen, as this constant support is vital to their success. In order to track inventory and keep level pars, the past practice of taking items without regard would not be a suitable process going forward. Third and ongoing was the delicate assignment of reducing costs while at the same time improving the food product quality and improving dining room delivery services.

Lopolito instituted ideas that offered solutions and generated great results.

  1. Purchases were carefully considered. All ordering was precise in selecting the correct item size and quality, along with best price. These careful actions resulted in the savings of $35,000 under budget, and $25,000 less than the prior year’s expenses. Read more about Restaurant Expense Loss.
  2. A full displacement, organization, and replacement of all inventories were performed.
  3. Newly designated “issued product shelving” was created to allow staff to take goods quickly without issuing request orders. This product was replaced continuously from stock as necessary.
  4. Issue shelving significantly increased productivity in kitchen preparations, which in turn improved food service delivery to the dining rooms. This process allowed inventory levels to be maintained.
  5. New color coordinated cutting boards replaced older versions, sanitation buckets were implemented, and ongoing cleaning and sanitation training was initiated in all areas.
  6. Proteins like chicken tenders and improved meat cuts were added to replace frozen manufactured products. Fresh cut fries were also introduced. Camper and staff dining satisfaction improved.
  7. The idea of an additional freezer was discussed as necessary, and a 900sf freezer was rented. This additional freezer allowed larger ordering capacities, eliminated shorts, and allowed more productivity by eliminating product searching and replacing with appropriate inventory issuing.
  8. A master inventory list was created and regular inventory procedures were enacted.
  9. A master order list with product codes was created to assist in a consistent ordering process.

 


About the Author:

Jim LopolitoJim is president of Lopolito Hospitality Consultants and a veteran of the restaurant, country club and catering industries offering expert operational review, club management consulting, foodservice consulting, and team development. His consulting services include his proprietary “Expense Loss Review” program. The ELR program reviews variances between money that is currently unsystematically expensed on product, services, or equipment and the amount expensed upon our review and implementation of practical methods of spending behavior. Jim has worked in virtually every position in foodservice, from executive chef to general manager in restaurants, country clubs, and catering in well-known organizations throughout New York. His background includes 12 years in restaurants, 19 years in private clubs, and 10 years in high-end catering and concert production.

Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry: Pervasive and Preventable

This past year has seen a flood of allegations and admissions of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry.  It’s been clear to many that incidents of this nature have been occurring for a very long time in a wide variety of ways.  A spark was needed to bring the issue into the spotlight and the calling out of high profile industry leaders became that catalyst.  This article will examine why restaurants have more sexual harassment claims than any other comparable industry and ways in which operators can prevent and manage harassment in their own operations.

Why Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry is Widespread and Preventative Measures

Culture Created by Owners and Management

A respectful work culture begins with the vision and effective implementation of ownership’s goals. The culture in which the work and results get done needs to matter.   Staff needs to be more than just interchangeable and replaceable pieces and whose growth and well being are considered part of the restaurant’s success.  Ownership that is committed to the genuine development of its staff and reinforces that through daily activities and feedback can create a culture that contributes to a respectful work environment that does not tolerate sexual harassment.

Poor Hiring Decisions

Restaurant owners and management often make very poor hiring decisions.  They’re not clear what they’re looking for.  Prospective employee attitude needs to be a critical factor in the hiring process.  Skills can be taught; character is usually already in place.  Leadership needs to learn how to screen for the type of character that will contribute to a positive and respectful work culture.

Power Dynamic of Men and Women

Sexual harassment in the restaurant industry is just as much about power as it is about sex.  According to a 2012 study by S. Representative Donna Edwards and other advocacy organizations, 71% of servers are women with male managers.   A 2014 report from Restaurant Opportunities Center United estimates as many as 90% of women in the industry have experienced some type of sexual harassment.  Abuse of that power position can be pervasive if managers are not clear on the boundaries and ownership allows for it.

Staff Hours Together and Influence of Alcohol and Drugs

Staff is often together 12 + hours a day and abuse of alcohol and drugs is a common condition among restaurant employees. Add on late nights and you have a potential recipe for unwanted sexual behavior.  It’s up to management to diffuse the mix of these ingredients by smarter scheduling practices and awareness to minimize alcohol and drug use.

“The Customer is Always Right”

The customer is always right is wrong. There are some abusive customers who cross the line and no employee should be subject to that behavior.  Staff needs to have ownership back them when customers get out of line.  As an owner, you have the right to refuse service to customers who disrespect your staff.

The Impact of Tipping

The dynamic of needing to get tips for survival income often puts servers in compromising situations.  They put up with poor behavior so as not to jeopardize a tip.   Some restaurants have tried a no tipping policy, mostly without much success to this point.  There are a variety of other issues that are also impacted by tipping including the discrepancy between front and back of the house pay.   There needs to be continued work on developing a pay model that works for both the employees and ownership.  In the meantime, restaurants can support tipped employees by encouraging them not to put up with abusive customer behavior for the sake of a good tip and enforcing specific guidelines for customer behavior.

Some Other Strategies to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry

Develop Written Guidelines

Management needs to have in place written policies that make clear what constitutes sexual harassment. Consequences also need to be spelled out.  These guidelines should be gone over with staff and be reinforced especially whenever an incident occurs.

Managers and Staff Training

Ownership should provide extensive training for both management and staff. This would include bystander intervention training so everyone understands that allowing sexual harassment to go on in front of you makes you part of the problem.

Have an Open Door Policy for Staff

A culture of approachability, where staff can feel no hesitation in presenting issues to management, leads to a healthier work environment.  Employees need to feel safe in telling the truth about sexual harassment without fear or believing it won’t matter to say anything.

Zero Tolerance for Harassment

Incidents need to be taken seriously with zero tolerance for unwanted sexual behavior.  Act fairly and tackle all such issues immediately and openly so staff understands the policy.  Keep a written record of all incidents and make it a point to understand the legal issues connected to sexual harassment.

Create Opportunity for Women Leadership

Make efforts to create opportunity for women to take on leadership roles and encourage their active participation in decision making.

The events of the past year surrounding sexual harassment have created an awareness and call to action that will not be reversed or buried.  Smart restaurant operators should take the time to revisit the culture they’ve created and realize that they need to be proactive in welcoming a way of doing business that no longer tolerates old accepted practices.  Restaurant success can be a multi-dimensional vision that incorporates a solid financial model with exceptional food, service, and atmosphere as well as a respectful work culture that honors the staff that contributes to that vision.


About the Author:

Alan SomeckAlan is a 30-year operator of high volume restaurants, in which he has managed all facets of the business. In his consulting practice, he has worked with many clients to create and establish their concepts. In addition, Alan has worked on assignments to develop food products for market such as protein bars, cookies, and brownies. He has also directed 7 EPA grants to train operators in Green sustainable practices. His experience and expertise have led him to develop a well-regarded expert witness practice. He has created an extensive network of industry professional who he works with on a regular basis. Throughout his career, Alan has supported the success of entrepreneurs through executive coaching and training. For the past 10 years, Alan also has taught at the Institute for Culinary Education in NYC and at NYIT where he has taught all aspects of the restaurant business. His students have opened fast casual restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and fine dining operations.