Category: Food for Thought

18- Jan2023
Posted By: Tracy Lawler

Is Your Food Service Program Stuck in the Past?

Happy New Year! People are coming back to the office on a more regular basis and things are starting to feel more like 2019 again… thank goodness! Now the question is, how do you keep things fresh and interesting so that boredom doesn’t settle in?

Here are 6 tips to ensure your corporate dining program is staying ahead of the curve:

  1. ROTATION – Be sure your program includes rotating pop-up concepts that represent local, popular restaurants. This allows employees to conveniently enjoy their favorite local spot without having to leave the office. Creating a variety of offerings is crucial to ensuring consistent engagement.
  2. ASKING A QUESTION – Find creative ways to encourage employees to become more invested in the food service program. For example, if you are considering a new coffee brand, offer a taste test that concludes with a vote, or ask guests to submit their favorite family recipe to be featured at a weekly Chef’s Table station.
  3. TECH MATTERS – Order ahead, self-checkout and App-based platforms are a must. Even if you find that people are more inclined to make purchases the old-fashioned way, technology speaks volumes about the level of program your organization has. Additionally, having a technology program in place allows for faster and more efficient communication to support marketing initiatives.
  4. WELL, WELL, WELLNESS – In this day and age, not only are people concerned about the spreading of germs, but we are very focused on overall health! What kinds of foods can help build a strong immune system? Having a registered dietician available to answer questions and help develop programs that are relevant to wellness is more important than ever.
  5. TRANSPARENCY – From responsible food sourcing to allergen sensitivity, to carbon emissions, a food story is vitally important. The how, when, where and why need to be communicated.
  6. USE YOUR DATA – You have access to all the information you need to understand exactly what ‘your people’ want. Review your sales data, participation rates, marketing campaigns and top sellers to develop an analysis of what excites people and gets them to walk through the door.

Whether you self-operate your food service operation or work with a management company, JGL can make recommendations to energize your food service program. In many ways, we are excited for the world to feel like 2019 again, but your food service program shouldn’t be stuck in the past.

18- Jan2023
Posted By: Tracy Lawler

Your Food Service Contract Is Expiring – Should You Renew or Go Out to Bid?

JGL frequently works with corporate clients who are trying to determine whether to renew their food service agreement or go out to bid. While there is not one answer that fits all, here are a few elements to consider when faced with this decision.

  1. Employee Satisfaction: Are employees generally satisfied and regular users of the dining services operation? Employee participation is critical in this environment of decreased office population.
  2. Creativity and Proactive Thinking: The best relationships are ones where the vendor comes to the client with new ideas for consideration. If you, the client, are driving all creative thinking it may be time to go out to bid.
  3. Age of the contract: If the contract was signed more than ten years ago, it might be a good idea to consider an RFP. Industry terms, norms and operating practices change over time, so an older contract likely does not have all the bells and whistles more current contracts do.
  4. Current Relationship: If the current relationship with the vendor is good and generally has been over the course of the contract, a renewal may serve you both well.
  5. Responsiveness: No vendor is going to be perfect all the time. What matters is how they respond to challenges. If your vendor is responsive in the face of challenges, that is a positive consideration for renewal.
  6. Evaluate reporting: Does the vendor give you the reports and data you need to understand the business? Are the reports accurate and timely? If not, it might be time to consider a change.
  7. Renew with Tweaks: If you are generally satisfied on most fronts, but want to implement one or two modest changes (like including KPI’s in the renewal), use this time as an opportunity to engage in dialogue with your provider. This is the best of both worlds as you get change without going out to bid.
  8. Consider a Provisional Renewal: When JGL works with a client who is generally satisfied but is seeking meaningful change in key areas, we will often offer a short-term renewal while the vendor focuses on improving the deficient areas. At the end of a proscribed period, the client has a better sense of whether the vendor can effect change. If positive progress exists, the renewal is extended, and if not, the client commences a bid process.
  9. Consider Time and Resources: An RFP is an investment in time and resources. If management does not have the time to focus on the selection process it will not have a good outcome. Be honest with regards to your firm’s capacities at the moment.
  10. Identify Goals: If a bid process is elected, be clear about the goals of the process. A well-crafted RFP will garner the proposals you want while one that is poorly thought out may not result in significant change.

These ten points are worthy of consideration as contract expiration looms. We recommend clients start focusing on next steps a minimum of one year before contract expiration. If you have any questions on where your company stands, reach out to JGL for a complimentary consultation.

18- Jan2023
Posted By: Tracy Lawler

JGL’s Roots – A Tribute to Our Founder

Most people who meet me and learn what I do for a living ask “how did you get into this”? My answer is in a very circular (yet organic) way. It all started with my dad James Gates Lawler (yes – JGL… I know – not very creative). Jim worked for two of the “big three” in his career and was instrumental in developing cultural business for Restaurant Associates in the 1970’s and 80’s. As a teenager I used to love going into Manhattan and eating at all the great restaurants he had access to. In 1983, he ventured out on his own and started JGL Management Services. Although his first clients were city clubs, he quickly decided to adjust course and started working with museums and performing arts centers. A lifelong cultural aficionado, Jim had a unique understanding of both the cultural institution guest experience and the way in which food service providers viewed these accounts. Jim and my mother Barbara were always going to museums, symphonies, and operas; as his business flourished, I would hear about the food service experience as often as the cultural experience. He started his business in an era when many museum directors still did not understand the value of visitor food service; to his great frustration many a client still wanted to relegate their eateries to the basement or some other out of the way location.

I worked in restaurants all through high school and college and loved the business. I graduated from college, went through a restaurant management training program, and after several years managing restaurants reluctantly decided the lifestyle did not suit my needs. Although my dad and I had talked about working together, it seemed unlikely as I exited the restaurant business and moved on to publishing. I loved my magazine publishing career; I rose to General Manager of several national publications and got my MBA from NYU along the way. A funny thing happened though – after the birth of my second child I was visiting my dad and offered to help him with some financial projections for one of his clients. After a few months of doing this, I think a lightbulb went off for both of us. He needed help because his business was growing, I was looking for a new challenge, still loved the food service business, no longer wanted to commute into NYC from Princeton, and voila – we found a way to work together!

Along the way Jim taught me everything he knew. He was patient and always so generous with his time and experience. I use my maiden name professionally, so over the years I have run into many people who say “Lawler”? are you related to Jim Lawler? I heard many great stories about Jim over the years.  He was so well respected and admired in the community and I always loved hearing stories about the early days of the business.

I had the good fortune to work with my dad from 1998 until 2010 when he retired. After he retired, we still spoke frequently about industry matters, and he loved following the growth of the business. He was always the first person to respond to our email blasts! He was thrilled when my son Connor started interning for JGL; Connor has been a full-time employee since October of 2019.

Jim died peacefully in his sleep on August 12, 2021. I miss him daily but know how proud he was of the business JGL has grown into and more importantly how his legacy has allowed his daughter, grandson, and five other employees to work daily in a profession and business that is incredibly rewarding on so many levels.

18- Jan2023

Cheers to 40 Years!

It’s JGL’s 40th Birthday!! We want to celebrate by giving back to the community and honoring the memory of our founder, Jim Lawler. Jim loved the arts, education, travel and of course, the food service industry.

Share your recommendations via the comments on our LinkedIn post by January 31, 2023 to have your suggestion considered for the first donation.

Read more about JGL’s Roots and our founder, Jim Lawler here.

19- Dec2022

Team Retreat 2022

In November of 2022, the JGL team had the opportunity to come together in person for the first time since 2019! Some of us flew, others drove, but we all met in Manchester, Vermont for an epic three-day company retreat. We ate delicious food, had an all-day meeting where we were able to share ideas, experiences, and best practices. We risked our lives during two team building activities and got to enjoy being with one another. The value in bringing people together for collaborative experiences is priceless. As food service and retail consultants, we are big proponents of helping our clients find ways to deepen customer and/or employee engagement – it was incredibly satisfying to practice what we preach!!

If a picture is worth a thousand words…check out these photos to get the whole story! We had a blast!!


Team JGL stayed at the beautiful Equinox Golf Resort & Spa

Resort in Manchester Village | The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa (

We spent one full day sharing ideas, discussing new strategies, and collaborating on how we can better serve our clients. Our brainstorming sessions were energizing and productive – we can’t wait to roll out some of our new ideas in 2023!

After our day-long strategy session, we scheduled one full day for fun and team building! Some of us started our day with a beautiful hike just steps away from our hotel.

Next, we visited Hildene, the Lincoln family home (Hildene Farm & Goat Dairy | Hildene). It was incredible to tour the house and property and learn more about the Lincoln family lineage. Team JGL was obviously enthralled by the equipment shown in the kitchen images below.

Following Hildene, we had a delicious Burmese lunch at Moonwink! ((2) MOONWINK | Manchester Center VT | Facebook) It was the first time many of the team members had tried Burmese cuisine – so delicious! We highly recommend Moonwink if you are in the Manchester area. It was packed around lunch time so clearly the word is out about this little gem of a restaurant.

After lunch, we made our way to Manchester Hot Glass (Manchester Hot Glass). What an experience!! Tracy and Brooke were terrified for their lives, but everyone else seemed to be relaxed. Andrew (owner and artist) was amazing and led us through the glass blowing process with a ton of humor and education. We thought it was pretty incredible to learn that just a few weeks prior to our visit, Andrew led Paul McCartney through a one-on-one glass blowing session!!

After we played with fire, it was on to axe throwing!!!! JGL is all about testing the limits and pushing ourselves! We discovered that some of the team members were natural-born axe throwers!! Colleen threw the winning ‘bull’s eye at the end of our tournament, which secured the championship title for the ladies team!

All in all, the JGL 2022 retreat was an outstanding success. We bonded around a fire pit under the stars, did some incredible work, and have some wacky inside jokes that will forever be funny to only us. We are all looking forward to the 2023 retreat!!

19- Dec2022

JGL Competes with Llamas in the Library

Frequently, when JGL is working with a higher education account on an RFP process, we recommend hosting a Town Hall to solicit student feedback. This allows students the opportunity to ask questions and share thoughts about campus dining services. JGL always suggests gathering a variety of viewpoints to ensure a fair and equitable process.

While working with Minneapolis College of Art and Design, the JGL team (Tracy, Ryan and Connor) were getting ready to start a Town Hall presentation when they found out that another popular event was happening at the exact same time – Llamas in the Library!

Team JGL crossed their fingers that a lively food service discussion would be just as compelling as livestock in the Library – and it was! Shout out to MCAD students – we had more than 30 students attend. The Town Hall was a success! The MCAD RFP process is off to a solid start. However, as soon as the meeting concluded, Tracy, Ryan and Connor all quickly made their way to the library – they realized they had neglected to interview a group of stakeholders….the Llamas!!!

Happy holidays from the JGL team and our new furry friends!

19- Dec2022
Posted By: Colleen Geyer

Year in Review: 2022

At JGL, we like to look back at the end of each year and take a moment to emphasize everything that our team has accomplished. See some of this year’s company highlights listed below:

In 2022, JGL has…

  • Hired another full-time team member, Ryan Richardson
  • Increased visibility in the higher education market
  • Nearly doubled both our assessment and feasibility studies conducted from last year
  • Managed 21 RFP processes (a new record!)
  • Worked with 33 repeat clients on a variety of projects
  • Met with three different clients in three different states all in one day
  • Had our first in-person retreat since 2019

In addition to the accomplishments mentioned above, JGL has contracted 28 new clients in 2022. This is by far the largest client list we have ever welcomed in one calendar year! Welcome to the JGL family!

  • Augsburg University
  • B H Music Center (Seattle Symphony)
  • Bergen Community College
  • Brooklyn Public Library
  • Cox Science Center & Aquarium
  • Frye Art Museum
  • Gilcrease Museum
  • Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami
  • Milwaukee Art Museum
  • Milwaukee Public Museum
  • Minneapolis College of Art & Design
  • Minnesota Zoological Gardens
  • Museum of Flight
  • New England Aquarium
  • Old Globe
  • Phoenix Art Museum
  • Please Touch Museum
  • Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
  • San Diego Natural History Museum
  • Sarasota Performing Arts Center
  • Saratoga Performing Arts Center
  • Washington Pavilion
  • Zoo New England

*Some clients have been left off this list intentionally, as they do not wish to be included in third party communications.

JGL could not be more thankful for such a successful (and busy!) 2022. We truly enjoy connecting and working with all our clients (past and present) and helping them achieve success. We continue to be committed to helping our clients optimize financial results, enhance guest experiences, and improve operational efficiencies for both food service and retail and can’t wait to see what 2023 holds. From all of us at JGL, Happy Holidays to you and yours!

23- Nov2022
Posted By: John Franzini

JGL Goes to Vegas! The Las Vegas Souvenir and Resort Gift Show

JGL recently attended the biggest and best souvenir and gift show in the county. With over 1,300 booths, the Las Vegas Souvenir and Resort Gift Show attracts most major cultural institutions and attractions from all over the country to see the newest products and hottest trends in retail sales.

As we walked the show floor, we took note of the trends and the booths that had the most activity. We also spoke to several vendors about what people were buying and what the retail outlook will be like for the next 12 – 18 months.

Most of us saw a “revenge spending” trend due to pent up demand, but what’s around the corner? Are supply chain issues still a concern? Will the potential for a recession and inflation deflate purchasing? Is staffing still a major problem?

The answer to most of these questions is still “YES”!

The question remains: how do we face these challenges and still be successful in our retail operations? We all know souvenirs and gifts are fun to buy and nice to have but are not a necessity to survive. If the merchandise has an added value, however, there is a better chance of making the sale.

Here are some trends we saw that are making merchandise more attractive.

#1 – Made in the USA

In the exhibit hall, Made in the USA manufacturers were grouped together, highlighted with signage, and called-out in the buyer’s guide. Approximately 10% of the booths were identified as exclusively Made in the USA. While there were too many to mention here, we’d like to highlight a few of the more interesting vendors below.

American Air Freshener Co. – Custom air fresheners

Small Town Dusk (veteran owned) – Custom, hand-dipped LED taper candles



Corkology – Custom designed eco-friendly cork coasters



#2 – Sustainable Products

We continue to see a rise in vendors offering sustainable/earth friendly products. While there is still so much work to do, it’s refreshing to see suppliers develop products that take the environment into account. It is notable that most of the companies offering sustainable products are also Made in the USA. Here are a few of our favorites:




Wuvvy Bamboo Blankets – Buttery soft bamboo blankets that come in a drawstring travel bag

Town Pride – Recycled cotton blend apparel, Made in the USA.


Steamer Lane Design – Sustainable wood magnets, keychains and ornaments. Made of sustainably sourced wood and Made in the USA.



#3 – Women and Minority Business Enterprises

Last, but certainly not least, were the added number of women and minority business enterprises that were present at the show this year. With the focus on DEIA at most cultural institutions across the nation, a great way to support this initiative is through the retail operation. There were some innovative products offered, and the stories behind the companies were even more interesting. Several women even started companies because of the pandemic. Below are three interesting enterprises we encountered:


Melissa Lew – Eco friendly jewelry designed for aquariums, zoos, parks, gardens, museums, and other cultural institutions.


Audra Azoury Design Ornaments & JewelryStainless steel ornaments Made in the USA.


Factory57 – Postage stamp gifts and collectibles made from actual vintage postage stamps

In the end, we still believe the consumer is motivated to buy mementos of their experiences.  We also think that if that memento can have the added value attached, the chance of making the sale will increase!

23- Nov2022

Is Your Food Service Provider Keeping it Clean?

Nowadays, there’s a good chance your food service provider is facing challenges above and beyond the everyday. Between attending to customers, keeping up with administrative duties, and of course, managing the seemingly insurmountable staffing issues, it’s possible food safety may be falling by the wayside. With employees coming and going, proper training may be difficult to achieve. And with the existing staff enduring the burden of a short-staffed kitchen, shortcuts may be taken to just “get the job done.”

Without proper food safety procedures in place at your institution, the other concerns are secondary. A food borne illness outbreak would be detrimental to your business on all levels. Illness aside, an outbreak would result in loss of sales, possible job loss, and damage to the reputation of the operation, the provider, and also to your organization. There are ways to ensure your provider is making food safety a priority. The first steps are educating yourself on the legal requirements and understanding the basics of food safety.

By law, your provider is required to develop, implement, and communicate policies and procedures that satisfy all local and state health, food and regulatory agencies. In fact, when managing RFP processes, JGL always requires health and safety information to be included in proposals from operators.  And when it’s time to go to contract, it’s incredibly important to make sure your provider agreement specifies their responsibilities regarding food safety. You can dig out your food service agreement to see what your provider included as part of their health and safety processes. If you have doubts about the cleanliness of your operation or if you suspect unsafe practices, you can request to review your provider’s onboarding and training program to be sure they are upholding the terms of the agreement.

Here is a quick primer on the basics of food safety:

Hand Washing: Hands down (pun intended), the most important aspect of food safety is proper hand washing. Proper handwashing procedures should consist of thoroughly washing hands with warm or hot running water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Hand washing should be done anytime a food handler uses the restroom, changes gloves, after handling raw meats, before handling ready to eat foods, and after handling dirty dishware. Contrary to popular belief, the use of hand sanitizer alone is not a viable substitute. Staff must be educated, and the behavior must be modeled by management. Of course, a system must be in place to ensure proper supplies are stocked at easily accessible hand wash stations. Go on down to the kitchen. If you don’t see a station similar to the one shown below, that’s a problem!

Thawing Foods: There are three proper techniques for thawing foods to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria. The first (and best) is to thaw over time under refrigeration. This method requires proper menu and prep planning to ensure that the product is thawed in time for use. You can also thaw product under cool running water if time doesn’t permit proper thaw time in the walk-in cooler. While we all understand that hot water will expedite the process, it will also encourage bacteria growth. The third and final approved method is using a microwave. A microwave should only be used to thaw products when the product will be cooked immediately. By nature of the device, the food will begin to partially cook, and holding partially cooked food for later service is not recommended.

Internal Temperatures: Products must be cooked to the correct internal temperatures. If bacteria are present, improperly cooked foods will only encourage its growth. Having thermometers readily available is a key step to ensuring food is cooked properly. With  analog thermometers, proper calibration is essential, and digital probes are a bit easier to manage. It’s a good idea to have signage in the prep/cooking areas detailing minimum internal temperatures and techniques to properly calibrate thermometers.

The above three items mentioned do not include everything that could go wrong in the kitchen, but they are reminders of the simple things that may get overlooked in a fast-paced, understaffed environment. Talk to your food service provider about what steps they are taking to ensure their staff is working in a clean, safe environment. Direct, open communication is really the best way to air doubts or grievances. And luckily, these items are easy to correct with the right training and equipment.

If you are not sure if the information in your agreement is being applied and are interested in refreshing your contract to be sure more specific health and safety measures are in place, JGL Consultants can help.

Now, go wash your hands!

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.