President, Business Dining - Aramark
What do you think creates the greatest challenge to our industry?
Finding the right people is our greatest challenge on two fronts. First, from a customer point of view, we are increasingly faced with population challenges, especially with “work from home” policies becoming more popular. This means fewer people on campus with less population to feed, but the spaces were built for the workforce to be at the site for the full work week. The need for a more flexible workspace that serves a more mobile consumer is key.
The second people challenge relates to our workforce. Attracting and retaining an engaged workforce, balanced with rising labor and healthcare costs is key to a successful operation. This is a daily challenge for our managers as they work to create meaningful customer experiences and manage an efficient P&L. It is the reason that we have put so many human resource processes in place—from hiring to development—and why we frequently grade ourselves on the effectiveness of our engagement practices.
How has your marketing approach evolved within the last five years?
Most employers consider food and beverage an integral part of attracting and retaining the best talent, and they expect their food program to drive engagement and improve productivity. Consequently, our focus has changed from menu/concept only approach to developing integrated solutions with the right menu, design and technology to create meaningful experiences for our customers that help to “inspire” them throughout the workday and beyond.
Advancements in technology have enabled us to become a more data and insight driven company, which allows for customization at a local and individual level. This enables us to connect directly with our customers—whether through our Voice of the Consumer
feedback tool or our Cafe Rewards Club
—to have a constant dialogue toward understanding what makes a difference from an engagement perspective.
How has the advent of social media changed your company’s approach to marketing?
Transparency and quick responsiveness is key- customers want to know that we are listening and responding to them “real time”. It’s also how you can create a strong brand loyalty and actually make your customers brand advocates.
From a healthy perspective, in goes beyond basic nutritional information. They want full transparency on where their food came from and how it was prepared.
What do you consider to be the most valuable part of doing business with Aramark for your customers?
Aramark is committed to delivering xxperiences that xnrich and nourish lives. This starts with a focus on our consumers and employees. By leveraging the Voice of the Consumer
panel of over 30,000 active panelists, we can have constant engagement and dialogue for a deeper understanding of consumers’ preferences and eating habits. Coupled with our employee engagement process, we can deliver an experience that is spectacular from both a quality and service perspective.
Please share a good story about your early foodservice career that still serves you well today.
When I managed the KFC and Pizza Hut business in South Africa, one of my first gaps to attack was the non-payment of franchise fees.
One franchisee in particular had been delinquent and I was quite sure that I would need to end our partnership. Our first meeting was difficult, as you can imagine, as there was really no trust from either side. After sharing information about both of our needs, we hatched a plan of attack.
To make a long story short, over the course of a couple of years, we were both able to demonstrate action against the others’ needs. When I left South Africa, this franchisee was one of our largest, most respected partners. The experience continues to reinforce to me the importance of trust
in a relationship. While things may not always be perfect and issues will arise from everyday interactions, agreeing on a plan of action, then ensuring you do what you say will go a long way toward maintaining the future partnership.