Get the Edge in the Race for Food Quality Gold

Cutting food service costs while maintaining high food quality, optimum customer service, and happy employees is a goal of nearly every food service establishment, from restaurants to retirement communities. Recently, Legacy Retirement Communities, in Lincoln, Neb., decided this was a goal they were ready to pursue. Now, with the guidance of national dining consultants Don Miller and Associates, Legacy’s dining services have cut costs by six figures, transformed a weekly resident pre-order approach into a tableside, made-to-order service, and maintained high food quality. But how are they doing it, and what can your food service department do to control costs, too?

The Overall Goal

“We have a proprietary process called destination 10, based on the Olympic scoring system,” says chef John Giambarresi, executive director for the senior fine dining division of Don Miller and Associates. “Basically, we have many types of processes to improve team building, personal relationships, cooking skills, and service skills that bring the food services division to a 10, a symbol of excellence and perfection. After three to six months, the food and nutrition department usually becomes the model division for the entire company.”

Known nationally in the health care and hospitality industries for their food consulting expertise, Don Miller and Associates provides its clients with the information, knowledge, training, and tools they need, not only to improve food quality and presentation but also to control their operational costs.

“I want the best life for my residents,” says Jerry Joyce, owner and founder of the Legacy Retirement Communities. “At the Legacy, we have a ‘slight edge’ philosophy. This means we always want to have the slight edge on our competition, which forces us to push ourselves and outperform our competition. Not only did I want to control our spending, but more importantly, I wanted to take the dining services to the next level since it’s such a big part of the residents’ lives.”

Joyce and Robert Darrah, food services director for the Legacy Retirement Communities, agreed that Don Miller and Associates’ destination 10 philosophy matched their own and decided that a partnership would be ideal.

And the results? “The dining services are excellent,” says Legacy resident Ali Jalinek. “We’ve traveled a lot over the years. We’ve met a lot of people and tried plenty of foods. But nothing compares to the wonderful bunch that works here and the food they serve.”

Overcoming Budget Challenges

Like most departments in the food service and hospitality industries, the Legacy’s dining service faces a fluctuating commodity market. Skyrocketing food and supply costs and unstable prices for overall food service have made maintaining a budget a challenge. Prices in a normal year may change from 4% to 9%; this year, food prices have fluctuated as high as 42%.

So what tools is Legacy using to battle this challenge? Darrah says there are plenty of tools Legacy’s consultants have incorporated into the department in order to maintain their budget.

“By using tracking tools developed in conjunction with our consultants and coaches at Don Miller and Associates, we are able to tell the quantity of items we use each meal, day, and week. Our forecasting is very efficient, enabling us to control over-portioning, overproduction, and excess waste,” adds Darrah.

The Legacy has also reduced costs by utilizing new negotiation and bargaining tactics with their suppliers and vendors. By purchasing a certain type of product such as meat from one supplier exclusively, for example, they have been able to brand their menu, purchase in bulk, reduce deliveries, and waive fuel charges—all leading to cost savings.

In addition to providing forecasting and bargaining tactics, Don Miller has also helped Legacy to analyze the types of foods being used and find more efficient ways to prepare them.

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