Category: Food for Thought

27- Sep2022
Posted By: Hollie Altman

Food Service Technology in a PAC Setting

As performing arts organizations set the stage for incoming audiences, food and beverage operators are taking their place in the spotlight. Large and small food service operators alike are continuing to roll out their new and improved technological offerings.

Digital menus are a must in a multi-use PAC environment. It allows maximum flexibility in making updates and changes easily. Food service providers are more apt to customize creative menus for different performances if they know it can be easily promoted via digital menus. Many theaters like their offerings to align with performances. Fun, non-alcoholic beverages are an upgrade at children’s performances, or a special beer or wine program can be offered at different times of the season, like German beers in October or rosé in the spring.

More and more, guests are relying on mobile ordering for fast, convenient service. A performance scenario lends itself perfectly for this amenity, both on personal devices and on kiosks. Guests should be able to order drinks at the time of ticket purchase (if possible) and pre-order and pay for their pre-show and intermission drinks before they arrive to the theater. “Cubbies” can be placed strategically throughout the lobby and labeled by seating sections or last names so guests know where to retrieve their pre-ordered drinks. Some operators use bar staff or security to check purchase receipts and/or ID’s at the pickup site to ensure guests are getting the drinks they ordered and are of age. Some systems have an over 21 verification (“click here to verify if you are 21”), which serves to protect the operator. As a note, one of the nation’s top food service providers reported that guests tend to spend 38% more when they order through a kiosk and 68% more when they use a mobile device; venues of all types and sizes are doing this successfully. Of course, factors like being able to bring drinks into the theater and whether or not there are intermissions impact sales.

A digital ordering program must, undoubtedly, be well-promoted both at the time of ticket purchase and on-site. Plus, if there is any intermediary communication with the ticket buyer prior to the show, information on digital ordering should be included there too. The Meyerson Symphony in Dallas, Texas does an excellent job of promoting the option to pre-order drinks (Pre-Order | Meyerson Dining Dallas Texas ( They offer three easy steps for patrons to pre-order on their phones, plus they include a mission-based message to put away phones during the show!


With exciting, new systems in place, PAC’s and their food service operators should be looking towards the future by utilizing technology to maximize customer satisfaction on all levels and increase revenue.

27- Sep2022
Posted By: Hollie Altman

Salesperson or Events Person? Who to Hire to Run Your Facility Rentals Program

Whether you title the position Director of Special Events, Venue Manager, Sales Director, or Facility Rentals Manager, the person you hire to run your facility rentals program should be a key hire for your organization. The right person can’t be hired without the right job description. Here are some tips to help find your superstar.

  • Because events in some form or another are central to non-profit cultural facilities, this person will likely be central to the operation and coordination of all of your organization’s activities. They should be a big-picture person, able to lead teams, and an excellent communicator.
  • This person will be touching both external (rental) and internal events, so they should really have expert skills in planning events, ideally in a non-profit setting. They should have an inherent understanding of how both external and internal events contribute to the intricate fabric of your organization so everything fits together seamlessly.
  • When looking at candidates, it’s great to find people who have hotel, event planning, catering, or private dining experience, but it’s even better if they also have cultural event/development experience! This person must embody your organization’s mission and be able to discuss it confidently in both sales and business settings.
  • Since it is likely your venue will compete with other commercial and cultural institutions, it’s important that this person approaches the sales process with an entrepreneurial spirit. It is as if this department is a for-profit entity that exists within the non-profit one, so they should be aware of evolving competition and trends in the field. They should also be involved in your city or town’s events community, which includes local planners and other vendors, like caterers, A/V providers, furniture rental companies, entertainers, etc.
  • It is likely this person will be the only one focused on the facility rental marketing message, so be sure they are adept at messaging and social media. They will drive the all-important website and social media content.

The sweet spot for this role is someone who recognizes that event clients are potential donors and donors are potential event clients! After all, if clients and donors enjoy the experience of being at your facility and actually like the people that work there, they will find ways to deepen their connection with the organization. Finding someone who can work in creative ways to bridge the gap between fundraising efforts and facility sales is the golden ticket.

15- Sep2022
Posted By: Connor Leahy

How To Make the “Top 10” on Niche and Princeton Review

A prospective student’s (or the prospective student’s parents) first interaction with a college or university usually occurs online. Websites such as Niche and Princeton Review have become a popular and widely used tool by thousands of aspiring college students each year looking for their home for the next four years. A great part about these sites is that the user can choose from several things important to them when searching for a school; financial aid, campus diversity, the size of the student body, and popular majors are just a few of the modifiers. But increasingly, many prospective students are looking at something else entirely; food. I know this because I was one of these students; in 2014, I was trying to find MY ideal school. I already knew what major I wanted to pursue, and I didn’t really care about the geographic location or the size of the student body as long as it had good food. Many colleges and universities have come to the realization that food is a genuinely important part of student life, and that websites such as Niche and Princeton Review play an outsized role in increasing their organization’s visibility. But in order to take full advantage of these websites’ influence, one must first ask: “How are these rankings calculated and how do I get my school’s food ranked by Niche or Princeton Review in the first place”?

  1. Gather student feedback and start making improvements: The first and by far most important way that these rankings are calculated are based off student feedback. After all, these are the individuals who will be spending the most time in the dining hall and the ones who will be able to provide the most objective opinion on the true state of the dining program. We’ve heard numerous areas for improvements resulting from surveys; it will obviously depend on your particular student body, but some of the common themes we’ve found are a lack of late-night options, a lack of vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free options, inflexible board plans, and an inability to use dining dollars at local restaurants. But the only way to find out what’s important to your students is to conduct your own survey and to conduct them regularly. All too often we’ve found that institutions start off strong with regular surveys as part of a new dining initiative, but they begin to lack the importance and urgency they once held after several years have gone by. If you’re finding that frequent surveys through sites like Survey Monkey are too much of a drain on your resources and time, consider hosting feedback town halls through social media channels. Remember that the majority of student communication nowadays is done in the virtual realm; if you engage with them in their preferred medium, you will receive a much higher rate of response. Additionally, we’ve heard from many student groups that they feel their feedback wasn’t heard. While it’s great to conduct periodic surveys, it’s even more important to pay attention to the data that’s gathered, create actionable steps to improve the dining program, and communicate the changes to students so they know their voices have been heard.


  1. Review your meal plan structures: The second way that these rankings are calculated is through the average cost of a meal plan as reported to the US Department of Education. This is another area where many institutions may be able to improve. First, we’ve heard from students throughout the country that there is an increasing desire for more flexible meal plans; many students simply don’t want to eat at the dining hall for the majority of their meals and would prefer to cook in their dorms or go back to their parent’s house for dinner several nights a week if they’re close to home. By providing flexible or partial meal plans to more students, institutions will be able to lower the average cost to its students. Admittedly, the average cost of meal plans is only taken into consideration for Niche and only accounts for 15% of an organization’s total score. While some may attempt to dismiss the importance of this factor, it’s important to remember that Niche ranked almost 1,400 campus foodservice programs last year. If your institution’s meal plan costs are noticeably higher than your peers, your program will likely be relegated to Page 12 of the rankings; a place that is rarely visited by prospective students or parents alike.


  1. Promote your institution: Now that you understand how these rankings are calculated, you need to understand how this information is shared with the various websites. As I mentioned previously, Niche creates its annual rankings based off (1) student feedback (85%), and (2) average meal plan costs (15%). Meal plan costs are nice and easy; the data is automatically pulled from the Department of Education which means you don’t have to worry about gathering this intel for the ranking sites. Student feedback, however, is much trickier as results from internal student surveys won’t cut it; students must submit reviews directly to Niche. With this in mind, institutions should take as many opportunities as possible to remind its students and alumni to post a review on these ranking sites. Small banners placed on annual student surveys and alumni communications are a great place to start. Princeton Review is a bit easier than Niche when it comes to sharing information with the site. As opposed to Niche’s reactive approach, Princeton Review is proactive in reaching out to the student bodies of the top 400 or so institutions that they’ve selected as the best performers in the country. They then distribute short questionnaires to the students asking about their experiences on campus, including the dining program. Even though Princeton Review meets organizations halfway, it is up to the college or university to make sure their students actually complete the questionnaire. Again, institutions should take as many opportunities as possible to remind their students of its importance; it can even be used as a tool for boosting school spirit and campus morale.

Now that you’ve learned how these various sites calculate their rankings and how they gather their information, its time to put in place what you’ve learned! Make no mistake, your college or university will not appear in the Top 10 next year if you begin this process now; it will likely take several years of hard work and a little bit of trial and error before your efforts bear fruit. But remember that students are increasingly looking at campus life as a crucially important factor when determining what college or university they will attend; not only would a Top 10 listing give you some great bragging rights, but it would also act as a powerful recruitment and retention tool that would increase your organization’s visibility exponentially.

15- Sep2022
Posted By: Tracy Lawler

Getting Ready to Renew Your College/University Food Service Contract or Go Out to Bid?

Tis the season. No – not that season. It is the season to start thinking about your food service contract that expires in the summer of 2023. While we realize the academic year is just beginning and you are in the thick of it, the truth is a successful renewal or bid process is based on proactive planning which should be starting now. JGL always recommends doing a mini assessment of the operation and services provided prior to starting a renegotiation or an RFP process. The information learned during the assessment process will inform your next moves regardless of the renegotiation or RFP status. Here are eight steps to consider:

  1. Gather Feedback: Speak to stakeholders across campus. This includes students, faculty, staff, catering users and non-users alike. Find out what they like, what they don’t like and what they want to see more of.
  2. Values: Consider institutional mission and values. Increasingly, sustainability, DEAI and social justice are important elements of food service contracts. If your current vendor is not aligned in these areas, consider what types of changes would support institutional objectives.
  3. Look to the Future: Identify any upcoming expansion, strategic priorities or other initiatives that might influence the future of food services on your campus.
  4. Crunch the numbers: Evaluate your board participation rates, swipes or dining dollars left on the table. Consider how well your organization has utilized funds provided by the existing contract. Determine whether cap ex is required.
  5. Process: Decide whether you are going to use a consultant or go it alone. Not sure? See a previous blog on the subject.
  6. Committee: Form a committee who will guide the recommendation that goes to decision makers. Be sure to include students so there is buy in.
  7. Renegotiate or RFP: Determine the best direction based on the above. Hint – if the current relationship is more than 10 years old it might be a good idea to go out to bid and test the waters from a fiduciary perspective.
  8. Manage your timeline: If you decide the renegotiate proceed forth with a wish list of items you want to change. Approach your vendor and request a pre-emptive offer. Leave enough time that you can still go out to bid if the renegotiation is unsuccessful. If you decide to go out to bid, utilize data from the above and kick off the process. We recommend getting the RFP on the street by late October or November at the latest for a June expiration.

Making a well-informed decision regarding a long-term contract takes patience, due diligence and expertise. The last few years have brought up so many unprecedented questions and challenges; this is the perfect time to improve your dining services and protect your interests. JGL is happy to answer any questions you might have regarding your institution’s renewal, re-negotiation, or RFP.

15- Sep2022
Posted By: Tracy Lawler

Why Hire a Food Service Consultant?

I was recently asked in a peer review business meeting to discuss JGL’s value proposition. That question prompted some very good internal conversations with team JGL. We routinely run into potential clients who either don’t know enough to know they need a consultant or those who don’t see the value of a consultant. The former might include an auxiliary services director trying to be a team player or a CFO new to higher education who was involved with RFPs in a previous position.  The latter category might include a college procurement department who thinks all RFPs are the same and may not be well equipped to understand the nuances of a food services proposal.

Consultants do sometimes get a bad rap. I am reminded of a recent client meeting where the client, discussing something heard in an earlier presentation, said “That sounds like something a consultant would say”. She immediately looked at me and my colleague and said, “I mean other consultants – not you guys – you are terrific and have added so much value”.  Occasionally, however, client’s internal staff members are against bringing a consultant in. The common refrain we hear is “I really don’t understand why we need a consultant. An outside person isn’t going to tell me anything I don’t already know about my business.” While consultants do generally provide new insight into the business, consulting is also a consensus building exercise. A university food service vendor selection process, as an example, is a purchasing decision but it is also a value confirmation process with important experiential and financial ramifications for the institution. Guiding a committee through the decision-making process is a collaborative art.

My focus for this blog is the second category of clients discussed above – those who don’t see the value of a consultant and particularly for clients looking to start a food service vendor selection process. We have seen a big increase this year in potential clients deciding to self-manage their food service vendor selection (or RFP) process to save money. While that is understandable in the context of the pandemic and the resulting economic issues, in the long term it may well be penny wise and pound foolish. To help decide whether your organization should self-manage a vendor selection for food service consider the following:

  1. Do you have a strong understanding of the financial structure of the business?
  2. Are you confident you know what kinds of commissions, fees, capital expenditure or other funds the account should warrant?
  3. Do you believe the dining experience for students, faculty and staff is superior? If not, do you understand what needs to be done to achieve success?
  4. Are you familiar with foodservice industry norms and best practices?
  5. Do you have familiarity or access to food service contracts at similar institutions nationwide?
  6. Do you know the food service vendors nationwide currently operating in the market?
  7. Do you have the time to devote to the process?
  8. Do you understand what food service vendors need to develop a responsive proposal?

If the answer to more than two of these questions is no, then you might be better served hiring a food service consultant. The fees charged by a good food service consultant for a vendor selection process should self-liquidate (frequently in the first year).

The food service experience on your campus speaks volumes to students, faculty and staff. There are meaningful financial implications to the food service vendor selection process. It may be more important now than ever to consider hiring an experienced food service consultant for your next food service vendor selection process.

23- Aug2022
Posted By: Tracy Lawler

Tips of the Trade to Maximize Earned Income from Food Services, Catering, Event Rental and Retail Stores

JGL Consultants interviewed several aquarium and zoo professionals across the country to learn what practices allow them to best manage and maximize earned income from food services, catering, event rental and retail stores. The institutions we interviewed each had a unique perspective and different approach, yet universally addressed the importance of incorporating their mission into these earned income streams. Several interviewees also mentioned the importance of value alignment with their outsourced vendors. All of the interviewees were contract operated, although several had self-operation in their past, including the Texas State Aquarium which transitioned to contract food service operations in late February of 2022. The bulk of our interviewees oversaw earned income from food service and retail, while one of the institutions had these revenue streams reporting to different individuals.

Visitor food, including cafes, restaurants and kiosks are important to the guest experience but can be challenging to manage from a capacity perspective. The ebbs and flows of visitation require active management to maximize revenues and profitability. Michele Smith, Chief Financial Officer of the Woodland Park Zoo, shared that she works closely with the Zoo’s contract food service operator to scale operations according to zoo attendance and time of year. Michele and her vendor use a data driven approach to determine when and how to deploy mobile carts throughout the Zoo. Rick Johnson, Director of Finance and Administration at the Seattle Aquarium, noted the Aquarium does not have excess space in which to deploy carts, but characterized the new outdoor dining outlet on the Aquarium’s deck, debuted in 2019, as very successful and a good solution to heavier summer visitation.  Justin Sefcik, VP of Operations at the Texas State Aquarium, noted that satellites drive additional revenue but can also serve as a “relief valve” on busier days. Evan Barniskis, Associate Vice President for the Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory, noted the Aquarium does not have satellite options at their existing facility but does expect to utilize them once the new Mote Science Education Aquarium opens in several years.

Rick shared that the metrics the Aquarium tracks from a visitor food perspective are the per capita sale and net concession revenue. Michele tracks the per capita sale, top sellers, check average and more recently has been studying price elasticity utilizing data from her vendor. Justin Sefcik, VP of Operations at the Texas State Aquarium, just recently converted from self-operation of all visitor food and catering to a contract operation. He shared that when the Aquarium was self-operated they did track the per capita sale by station but he expects to develop new metrics to track with their contract vendor.  Evan shared that the Mote has not historically tracked many metrics except revenue because visitor food has not been a meaningful source of earned income but he anticipates that will change in the future.

The Woodland Park Zoo, like most visitor attractions, started rolling out technological solutions during the pandemic as a way to remain contactless. Michele has seen “a 50% increase in the use of technology throughout the zoo, including the use of QR codes”. The Woodland Park Zoo is now 99% digital and has no plans to go back. Michele shared they have seen significant increases in check averages as a result of the use of technology – in some case by as much as 50%. The Texas State Aquarium’s new food service vendor just recently introduced mobile ordering. They have QR codes on the website, on maps, in on program schedules and located throughout the facility. The staff love it and Justin has found “more of an early adoption among leisure travelers than expected”. While no hard data exists yet, Justin is positive about the potential. Tera Greenwood, VP of Business Development for contract operator Service Systems Associates, confirmed SSA has seen guests on average spend “38% more when ordering from a kiosk & 68% more when ordering from a mobile device”. The Seattle Aquarium has implemented pre- order technology in the last few months and does not yet have results but Rick has heard anecdotally that Aquarium staff appreciate the ability to order in advance. The Seattle Aquarium is also utilizing the strategically placed QR codes throughout the facility to “counter the challenging location of the café”. The Mote will be incorporating technology in their new café and it excited about the potential.

Event rentals can be an important source of earned income for many aquariums and zoos. Generating this revenue requires the right sales and marketing structure. Every institution handles sales and marketing of event rentals differently. While all interviewed noted the collaborative approach with their food service vendors, two of the interviewees have charged their vendor with the sales and marketing effort. Evan shared that sales and marketing at the Mote is a shared effort between the event rental and marketing teams. The Mote’s internal marketing team handles all social media and advertising while the event rental team handles the balance. There is no one correct answer that will meet every institution’s needs. It is important to have clearly defined booking policies, particularly if the vendor is booking events. Regardless of the option your institutions selects it is important to make sure event rentals are prominently featured on the institutions website and to mystery shop the event sales team from time to time to check responsiveness and the quality of sales collateral.

The Woodland Park Zoo actively seeks event rentals and Michele characterizes the income as important to the Zoo. With its Seattle location, the Zoo’s corporate clients include Facebook, Amazon and Google, all of whom are interested in outdoors locations and the Zoo’s conservation message. Michele, who focuses on driving revenue on a daily basis, said she “is always looking to recreate an extraordinary experience that delivers the wow and ties to conservation to inspire people to make an action”. Rick shared that the Aquarium too, is focused on aligning its conservation message across all revenue streams. The Aquarium’s vendor added the purchase of carbon offsets to its catering menu recently and has found strong guest interest.

Michelle shared that the Woodland Park Zoo now pursues buyouts which have become significant revenue drivers. In 2019, the Zoo hosted one corporate buy out and in 2022 they will have three. Michelle said “each buyout represents one weeks’ worth of revenue for the Zoo”. She also noted there are sponsorship and donation opportunities associated with these buyouts.

On the retail store front, most interviewees tracked metrics with their vendor on a regular basis. Michele reviews monthly key performance indicators with her retail vendor including capture rate, check average, product mix, and top sellers. Michele notes she examines “the whys behind each metric” to understand trends and inform decisions moving forward. Rick has quarterly meetings with his vendor and tracks the per capita sale along with net commission revenue. He shared that “per caps have been amazing recently” and that the Aquarium had several record days this winter. All interviewees expressed the importance of aligning the retail stores with conservation messaging. Actively managing product selection so it reflects the organization’s mission and simultaneously achieves financial goals is a balance all are seeking.

Technology is prevalent in retail operations as well. All interviewees have an e-commerce platform and several have plans to experiment with kiosks and contactless checkout. According to Tera, SSA finds an “89% increase in spending on e-commerce as compared to in-store”.

Everyone who was interviewed is positive about future earned income potential from these revenue streams. Rick is bullish about future revenue growth in all areas. With the upcoming Aquarium expansion, Rick expects “visitorship will increase from 800,000 to 1.2 million.” The new Ocean Pavilion will incorporate timed ticketing and Rick hopes visitors waiting for their entry time will visit the café and retail store. The Aquarium has had a surge in event rental inquiries since mask mandates were lifted. Rick shared the Aquarium has 45 weddings booked for this summer already. Michele has mapped out an “earned revenue plan” for the Zoo and meets bi-weekly with other Zoo stakeholders to ensure the plan is on track. Michele acknowledges the retail store per capita spend has increased in the last two years; she believes with the incorporation of dynamic pricing and strong management these key performance indicators will remain strong. Justin, with a recent move to contract operation, is already seeing improvement in metrics and believes the Aquarium will be better suited to take advantage of previously underutilized assets. Justin and his team are also implementing a plan to increase the volume of alcoholic beverages sold in the café. Evan looks forward to the opening of the brand new Mote Science Education Aquarium; with much higher projected visitation, a well located café and store and a large multipurpose event space, it is likely that earned income in the Mote’s future will be quite different than it is today.

Every institution will have a different approach to managing these earned income streams. JGL has found tracking key metrics or performance indicators on a regularly scheduled basis and an open dialogue with the vendor or internal team are the two pillars upon which successful management of these programs is formed.

15- Jun2022
Posted By: Tracy Lawler

Thinking about moving to contract operation? Tips for a successful RFP process.

The selection process for a food service vendor in a higher education environment more closely resembles an important hiring decision than a procurement process. After all, the vendor and their employees will be interacting daily with your students, faculty and staff and likely have more touchpoints in an average semester than most of your institutional staff. As such, it is critically important that all elements of the program including offerings, marketing, communication, staff training and more align with your organization. And increasingly, it is vital that your values relating to social justice, DEIA, and other initiatives are reflected in the food service operation. Finally, making sure all of the information a vendor will require to submit a proposal is included from the outset will result in the most accurate financial offers. Our top seven tips follow:

  1. Communication Plan: Be sure you have communicated to faculty, staff, students and food service employees what to expect. Meet individually with food service staff to assure them they will be given an opportunity to interview with the winning bidder. Position the move as one that offers professional training and career growth opportunity within the food service vendor’s company.
  2. Start with Core Values: Be sure you are clear about institutional priorities and goals. If your student population is accustomed to 40% organic, make that clear. If social justice or food insecurity is a hot topic on campus, detail that in the RFP document. Ask vendors to include real-world examples of programs they will implement to align with the objectives.
  3. Transition Plan: Allow a minimum 6 month ramp up if moving to contract operation. Ideally, we would like the period between vendor selection and transition to be closer to a year but a full six months is the minimum. The clock starts ticking once the contract is signed; don’t assume two of the six months can be devoted to hammering out the contract.
  4. Form a Committee: The selection committee should be no more than 8 people and should include a mix of faculty, staff, administration and students. Be sure they understand the importance of attending all meetings and staying engaged throughout the process. It is critical that their review and varied perspectives is representative of the institutional priorities developed above.
  5. Provide Data: Provide as much data as you can. Sales by location, retail vs. meal-plan vs. dining dollar spends, daypart and day of the week, cover or transaction counts for the same periods, top sellers by location, existing staffing structure, wage rates, benefits levels and seniority should all be included. When in doubt, include more.
  6. Schedule in advance: Build the RFP schedule ahead of time. Have all bidders and committee members schedule accordingly and hold dates as soon as they have been determined.
  7. Tastings: Tastings are one (albeit a fun) component of a selection process. The tasting should never be the deciding factor unless two firms are truly neck and neck. The tasting should be used to find that elusive “fit” that all institutions are looking for; ask yourself what it would be like to work with the food service individuals on a daily basis. Did they provide everything that was asked of them? Were they able to accommodate any committee allergies or dietary preferences? Were they open and transparent when asked questions?

Planning the process in advance, spending the necessary time to think about goals and needs, and applying some of these “best practices” will help develop a smooth, well-run and successful process.

15- Jun2022
Posted By: Tracy Lawler

Use your Summer Wisely

Those of you who work in a higher education environment probably just breathed a sigh of relief. The academic year is over, students have (mostly) departed campus, the main dining hall is closed, and the start of the next academic year seems a long way off. Think again. As any good business coach will tell you, it is time to work on your business – not in it. Contract and self-operated higher education liaisons or directors can use the summer “downtime” to set the stage for a more effective and efficient food service operation in the fall. In the process, you will likely cut expenses and/or create new revenues. Here are 7 thoughts to get you started:

  1. Evaluate outlet usage during shoulder hours (hours of operation at the very beginning and end of the day): Data is key to any good decision. In the midst of the academic year, it is hard to make any operating hour changes. The summer is an excellent time to evaluate transaction counts by half hour segment for the first two and last two hours of daily operation by location. If you find transaction counts are far lower during these shoulder periods, take the secondary step of reviewing items sold during these shoulder periods. Chances are good another outlet can fill the need, thus creating labor savings. Putting new hours in place before the academic year begins is a smart way to align student expectations with operating realities.
  2. Automate your survey process: Student, faculty and staff surveys can be very helpful in gathering insight on trends, preferences, likes and dislikes. All too often, the survey process is a last-minute exercise whose content and timing needs approval from a busy communications department. Plan out a survey strategy now and get buy in from communications in advance. Survey regularly (every two-three months), measure the same data each time and develop a methodology to track progress. Be sure to include a way for selected respondents to win some food related benefit – think dining dollars, vouchers, guest swipes or a cooking class.
  3. Recalibrate the value of a swipe: From an accounting perspective, a meal swipe has an assigned value. We have found, all too often, the value of the swipe is not recalibrated annually resulting in financial losses. This is particularly important in the current environment as product costs are increasing exponentially.
  4. Recalibrate meal equivalencies: If swipes can be used in retail outlets, recalibration of the meal equivalency is another task that should be done annually. We liken this process to dental hygiene; it may be unpleasant to institute increased pricing, but it is a necessary measure to keep up with increasing product and labor costs.
  5. Study catering: The more catering business that remains on campus the better for the overall financial health of the operation. Evaluate what type of business is leaving campus. Student groups? Consider DIY pick up kits. Board lunches? Create new menu options that are more appealing. Plan a series of focus groups for heavy catering users at the beginning of the fall semester; feed them well and utilize their input year-round.
  6. Study catering part 2: Does your campus have a beautiful space well suited to catered events? Is there an opportunity to rent the space to outside groups (conferences/camps/ alumni groups)? Outside rentals can generate rental income and create incremental catering revenue. Spend the summer developing a business plan and present it to senior leadership for approval and implementation.
  7. Implement key performance indicators (KPI’s): KPI’s are a great method to measure the ongoing health of your food service operation. When developing your KPI’s consider your primary goals. Number of meal plans sold, retail sales per caps, cost per meal, meals per staff hour or sales per staff hour are all great metrics. Not only should you track these measures monthly, but you should document the assumptions utilized in your annual budget for comparison too.

Try some or all of these over this coming summer and reach out to let us know what impact they had!

24- May2022
Posted By: Hollie Altman

Showcase Showdown

What is a showcase? It is when you throw a party, but in your own honor! It’s when you say to the event world – “Helloooo! We are here, we are hoppin’, and we are the place to be!”

Showcases are parties planned by venues to “show off” their venues to potential clients, allowing them to experience the venue first hand, taste the food and see all the spaces activated for an event. Your showcase can be one big event for all kinds of planners and events or it can target certain groups, like wedding planners, corporate planners or non-profit gala planners. Some venues even do wedding showcases for prospective couples and families. Any organization that wishes to show off their facility as a rental venue can plan a showcase, including museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and performing arts centers.

Event planners all across the country from San Diego to DC report that showcases are a great way to learn about new venues, reacquaint with old ones, and connect with industry professionals. JGL loves recommending showcases to our clients. Whether the purpose is to debut an events program for the first time, to reboot an existing one or to introduce a new catering partner or partners, it’s a reason to celebrate, bringing the events community together in your city or town!

Gather all your vendor partners, whether they are exclusive, preferred or recommended, and make a plan that celebrates your venue, showing off the best there is to offer. Many vendor partners are happy to offer their services at no charge to reach potential clients and help make the event the best it can be. Vendors can include caterers, AV services, event planners, décor, and entertainment. Promotion is key, so be sure any vendor partner you include does their part to promote the event (and therefore the venue) on their own social media channels. And don’t forget the photo booth! That’s a great way to boost the message to everyone’s network that is in attendance.

Branding is also a great strategy to drum up excitement and even lends itself to an annual or bi-annual occurrence. In 2021, JGL managed an RFP process for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) to select a shortlist of preferred caterers. DCPA recently debuted their new program and partnerships in an event called “Bite of the Ballroom” where 500 guests attended, they gave away tickets to a Broadway show, video mapped images of food onto plates and wowed local guests with everything that the DCPA has to offer! Each of the six caterers on their preferred list had the opportunity to create their own elaborate concept stations, showcasing their creativity and presentation.

Curating the list of attendees is of utmost importance, so be sure to collaborate with your vendor partners on inviting the right people and setting up the guidelines for attendance. Can the invitee transfer the invitation to her employees? Can the invitee bring a non-industry friend? You will want to cover these questions in advance to be sure that your investment hits the right people, and the goals of the event are achieved.

Given events of the past two years, event industry people are hungry to re-connect. If you have never planned a showcase, start planning one now. If it has been a while since your last one, flex those event planning muscles and get ready.

It’s ok to be a show-off!

13- Apr2022
Posted By: David McCallum

MCASD Celebrated it’s Opening on April 8, 2022! Congratulations to the MCASD Team!

On Friday, April 8th, JGL had the great privilege of attending the member’s preview and opening reception for the stunning new Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla, California. JGL worked on several aspects of the MCASD project including development of the vendor business structure and a dual track RFP focused on selecting a preferred caterer list as well as a cafe operator. The new building features sweeping, panoramic views of the ocean and uses natural light throughout the building as a curatorial tool. JGL toured the museum both at night and during the day to very different effect. Perhaps one of the most pertinent examples of how unique the visitor experience is at the new MCASD is Robert Irwin’s 1º2º3º4º installation which consists of three tinted windows with rectangular cut outs framing portions of the sea and sky beyond, reminiscent of one of James Turrell’s Skyspaces. It takes a moment before registering what a special experience it is to be standing in the middle of a gallery with the ocean breeze on your face. When JGL made our first site visit to MCASD two years ago, in the thick of the pandemic, the streets of La Jolla were empty. Seeing both the Village of La Jolla and the new museum teeming with life truly brought the project full circle. Congratulations to the whole team at MCASD on this monumental achievement…JGL will be back for the café opening this Summer!

Pictured Above: David McCallum, JGL’s VP of Consulting Services at the MCASD Opening

Read more about the grand reopening of MCASD: Then there was light: Gasp-inducing MCASD campus in La Jolla set for grand reopening – The San Diego Union-Tribune (