Happy 30th Birthday, Bon Appétit: Growing People
I joined Bon Appétit 19 years ago, in May 1998, as the general manager at Concordia University. We’ve grown so much since then, and one of the things I’m most proud of is how we have used our company growth to really promote our people.
It makes me so happy to look around me and see so many folks who’ve grown with me in their positions — people who were hourly cooks and are now executive chefs for us, a catering manager who is now a district manager. Selling new business is necessary, of course, but what I really, really love is meeting with my district managers and talking about how we position our people for future leadership roles: Where is this person going to be in five years? I love making predictions and helping foster careers, helping them achieve the best they’re capable of.
Despite the times changing, and trends changing — so many companies are now trying to do what we’ve been doing for a long time! — I still feel like our culture is the same. Yes, we focus more on safety, and that’s important, to get our people home safe every day. These and our other professional programs have made us a better company. But the core of our culture is still the same. We’re still an entrepreneurial company. The reason we’ve been so successful is that we really mean it when we tell our operators, “We want you to go into an account, get to know our clients, and build that program based on your community — not what the corporate leadership says it should be.” Serving great food, understanding our clients, and understanding the community we work in might sound like basic stuff, but it’s made us who we are.
“It makes me so happy to look around me and see so many folks who’ve grown with me in their positions — people who were hourly cooks and are now executive chefs for us, a catering manager who is now a district manager.”
That and our commitments to environmental and social responsibility, and to wellness. We were ahead of the curve on all of those things, and I know I am not alone in being proud of that. Our competitors may finally talk about those things now, but we’ve been doing it longest. Sure, we’re not perfect, but we really try to walk our talk.
I’m so proud and grateful to have worked with Michael and Fedele. They’ve been the architects of a company that comes along once in a generation in an industry. I really believe that Fedele is the Steve Jobs of the contract catering business. His leadership, his innovation, has changed the landscape for all of us and for everyone we touch. I can’t wait to see what he’s going to come up with next.