Channel Surfing

With Diana Sobczynski, University of Oregon

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

Diana Sobczynski

A new and occasional feature on Fare Digest, Channel Surfing offers a peek at what’s on the mind of retailer/operators, consultants and other experts in the foodservice-at-retail industry.

This week, we speak to Diana Sobczynski, general manager of retail food services at the University of Oregon in Eugene. The school’s dining services include the café-style Dux Bistro, Grab ‘n’ Go Marketplace and Puddles and Common Grounds Cafes, and is recognized for its high-caliber employee training and retention programs.

Fare Digest (FD): What's new in your locations for the 2011/2012 school year?
So many things are new! At one of our retail cafes, Common Grounds, we have revamped our smoothie recipes. We searched for ingredients that did not contain high fructose corn syrup or added sugars. Our research resulted in a very delicious smoothie made with fresh fruit and local ingredients. We also started off the year with our new and improved burger bar. We are serving local beef patties made to order on buns made in a local bakery! Delicious!

FD: Any special promotions or events to kick off the new school year?
We are preparing a Twitter campaign to tweet specials and coupons to our customers.

FD: What trends are on your radar--foodservice or retail?
Local foods and gluten-free items. We are working with local distributors and farmers to bring in fresh produce and meats. Gluten-free items have been growing in popularity for a few years. We are always striving to have a variety of products available for everyone to enjoy.

FD: What surprises you about students today, in terms of what's important to them?
That’s funny because not many things surprise me anymore! What I do find fascinating is their request for options. Our customers are so savvy and have such a global palate; they want a variety of foods every day to choose from. However, most of the time they seem to choose comfort foods.

FD: You have a strong reputation for hiring, training and motivating staff. If you could offer only one bit of advice, what would it be?
Take your time to find the right person for the job. Once you have hired them, work on acceptance, respect and support. These three simple words can improve motivation and retention.

Abbie Westra, CSP/Winsight By Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP
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