Why did you decide to become a CDM?
After selling my second restaurant in Nebraska in 2005, I was helping my husband farm; I answered an ad in our local paper for a Dining Services Manager at the facility down the street from my home, it was a Golden Living facility. They offered me the position and sent me back to school for my CDM, CFPP and the rest is history.
What are your main responsibilities in your current position?
I am the Corporate Director of Culinary Services for the largest healthcare management company in Minnesota. I am responsible for all of the Corporate Sites Culinary Operations. I currently have 3 Regional Directors in addition to 7 Chefs/Culinary Directors that float for the company to our various sites when there is a need. I write Policy and Procedures, training, menus, and am currently developing the infrastructure for the Culinary Department for the company as we are continuing to grow by leaps and bounds
How do you organize your time at work to make sure you accomplish all your responsibilities?
I am very organized and keep several schedules through Outlook as well as an “old fashioned” day planner, so that I can highlight items as I complete them. If a task does not get completed in the day it is planned, then it moves forward to the next day until I get it completed so nothing gets missed.
What is an example of an innovative way you have made change at your facility and how did you implement it?
We are currently moving from a Corporate Menu that we put together for all of the sites to a web-based menu system that will allow us to offer specialty diets to our residents at all of our Assisted Livings. We plan to roll this out in the Fall of 2019. In addition, we are developing a new “Chef Training” program that will allow us to hire staff without any experience and, once completed, they will receive a certificate from Ebenezer that states they have the skills needed to be a Support Chef at any one of our locations. With the staffing market being so tough in Minnesota, we are doing everything we can to entice people to come and be a part of our growing team. We are also working on a Jr. Chef competition that we will put together with local high schools to find the students that want to go into Foodservice as a career.
What was your first job in the foodservice industry?
I worked at Sonic in Arlington, Texas at the age of 14 as a carhop on roller skates. I was then in the restaurant business for 25+ years working my way up through the ranks while attending college, eventually purchasing my first restaurant in Nebraska.
Who has been your biggest mentor in foodservice and how have they helped shape your career?
WOW, great question, there have been so many. The first was my Area Director, Bill Boller when I worked for Whataburger in Texas. With his mentorship I was promoted from General Manager of one location to Area Manager for multiple locations, eventually giving me the confidence to purchase my own restaurant. Since that time, while I have been a CDM, CFPP, I have had 2 people that were paramount in my success. Mike Marchant, the Regional VP of Operations with Villa in Minnesota who taught me a great deal about operations and the numbers. And now my current VP of Operations with Ebenezer, Erin Hilligan, I learn so much from her on a daily basis and the fact that she has the faith in me to accomplish the goals for Corporate Culinary at Ebenezer says a great deal.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your position and how do you handle them?
STAFFING! It is everyone’s challenge in this day and age it seems. Not only finding the right fit for a certain location, but also ensuring that the personalities will work with the rest of the team. We are doing everything we can to think outside the box at this time to try and encourage and teach people about what a great company Ebenezer is to work for.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Meeting our residents and seeing the happiness on their faces after they have just had an amazing meal that one of our Chefs has prepared for them. Working with the staff to train and set them up for success. Throwing the parties that we do regularly at all of our locations. Believe me, we know how to throw a party too.
How do you stay up to date with current innovations and trends?
I watch a lot of industry specific webinars, what is upcoming in the news, conferences, and publications, and I am involved in several industry committees through Leading Age of Minnesota. I am also the President Elect for 2020 for the MN Chapter of ANFP. I also attended ANFP ACE this year for the first time and found a lot of beneficial information at the sessions that were held.
How do you envision the foodservice industry in the next few years and foodservice?
I am afraid that if we continue to have the staffing crisis we are currently experiencing, there might have to be certain things that will need to be automated as we will not have the people to complete the job. I am certainly hoping this does not end up being the case however, there is nothing more impersonal that ordering from an iPad with no interaction from an actual person. I have experienced this in airports all over the country and it just isn’t the same.
What is your advice to those just getting started in the foodservice industry?
Ask lots of questions, utilize the industry trade magazines, education is key, be a “yes” person and always work to improve yourself based off of the feedback you receive. Constructive criticism is a VERY good thing, without it we never know where we need to improve ourselves. ALWAYS, ALWAYS say it with a smile. And remember….please and thank you go a long way.