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Career Story: Director Of Operations For A University Cafeteria System

Director Of Operations For A University Cafeteria System

Job Title: Director Of Retail Operations

Type of Company: I work for the largest food service company in the world, that provides food for corporate organizations, schools, sports venues, and museums.

Education: AS, Culinary Arts, Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, NY)

Previous Experience: I worked in a series of jobs in restaurants and private institutions over the past 15 years, all related to food service. I now run food-service operations for a state university. I've gone from waiter and cook to Assistant General Manager.

Job Tasks: I currently supervise 7 managers, 5 supervisors and a total of 110 hourly employees.

My days normally begin at 6AM making sure that all doors are open and everyone reports to work in a timely fashion. We serve approximately 3500 meals a day, with approximately $8 million in revenue over the course of two semesters. In addition to feeding students who reside on campus, we also feed commuters, faculty and staff; cater special events; and provide concessions for the sports teams, including our Divison I football and basketball teams.

I often deal with labor issues. Employees file grievances based on possible violations of the bargaining agreement, and it is my duty to read the grievances, sit with associates and try to hammer out solutions to keep a happy environment. I also deal with financials, and being responsible for $8 million in revenue is very stressful: balancing everything from fixed assets to controllable costs (food costs and labor costs, above all).

Managing others is probably the most difficult thing that I do. There are always conflicting ideas on how to do a given task. Keeping all seven of my managers focused and fresh (in terms of what's hot/cold in food service) and constantly challenging them can be a pain in the neck.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best thing about my job is knowing that we are providing the best possible food, service and environment to 2000 students every day. Knowing that they are well-fed with a balanced and nutritious diet is very fulfilling and cool.

The worst part about my job is dealing with stress from upper management. The constant pressure to add to the bottom line is very difficult, especially in this economy. There is very little room for error and constantly looking to cut costs can sometimes result in having to make decisions that you normally wouldn't.

Overall there are many more positives than negatives, however.

Job Tips: The most important advice I can give anyone that wants to enter the food service industry is to try it out even if it's as a volunteer in a restaurant. The industry is extremely competitive and cut-throat, and the 16-hour days can burn you out very quickly.

Do your research to find the right college/university/trade school. You truly will take out what you put in.

Determine what your specialty is. Do you prefer to cook or to bake? Would you make a good food writer, food scientist, researcher, private chef? There are many kinds of food service. It isn't all cooking and serving.

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