Diane Dowling


 by:  Diane Dowling
Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer – Washington, DC Office

The World Trade Center represented the pioneering spirit of America – that drive to push beyond the boundaries of the known and show the world what imagination, hard work and determination can achieve.  As a nation, we had done it before and we would do it again.  In fact, the very resilience of the human spirit, and the nation as a whole, as demonstrated immediately during and after the events of 9/11/01 and again during the commemorative events this weekend perhaps was pioneering on the next great frontier for our civilization: emotional connection.

It was in this spirit of recollection and connection that Cini-Little staff across the U.S., Canada, and Qatar, drew together last Friday on a webinar to hear the words of its founder, John Cini, as he described our small firm’s big effort in the design of the foodservices at the World Trade Center.  This project laid the foundation and springboard for the growth of our company, and the webinar was a peek into our rich company heritage, back to when our firm was just getting started.  Together with Bill Eaton, John told the stories behind the story and we got a glimpse into not only the World Trade Center but also the spirit that pushed its design to make an impact on the skyline of New York City and in the hearts of so many.

Windows on the World

The most well-known dining facility in the complex, and the city, was Windows on the World.  Few know the challenges associated with its design, such as:

  • It was an acre in size.
  • The building core was enormous and had to be worked around.
  • The kitchen needed to be all-electric.
  • It got its food product from the commissary over 107 stories below, using one freight elevator shared by all foodservice outlets to deliver thousands of pounds of food daily.

The Hors D’Oeuverie had a unique piece of furniture, conceived by architectural interior designer icon Warren Platner who envisioned it when he saw the burl on an old tree in his yard.  This was transformed into “a handsome custom table, almost a sculpture” according to Gael Green, New York Magazine’s famed food critic, with fingers extending out in many directions to hold the array of hors d’oeuvre choices. 

As most know by now, the dining room windows were wider than those of floors below.  As the story goes, Joe Baum, the venerable New York restaurateur who drove the foodservice program at the World Trade Center, had seen the small windows at the Rainbow Room in the RCA Building, and he pushed the Port Authority and the architect, Minoru Yamasaki, to broaden the view.  Windows on the World:  The view made it spectacular but the kitchen made it possible.

The Big Kitchen

For the everyday visitor to the World Trade Center and so many of the thousands that worked there, stopping in the Big Kitchen located on the concourse one level below the street was a part of the daily routine.  It was a marché concept before the industry knew the word.  There were 8 stations, each with food displays to tantalize and tempt the buyer.  The loaves of bread were bounteous, overflowing baskets on tables and counters.  There was a deli station and a whole station devoted to cheeses.  Back in the day, rotisseries were unusual and were found in high-end restaurants to demonstrate how the food was freshly prepared; the Big Kitchen took this concept and brought it to daytime, so to speak, gifting it to the common diner.  The grill area had a refrigerated case with the burger patties, showing the freshness of the product.  The seafood was straight from Fulton Fish Market (then located in lower Manhattan) and could be purchased fully-cooked or raw to take home and prepare yourself.  And with the transit hub located in the building, for many it was just a quick train ride to get home.

The Commissary

Deep in the bowels of the building was the commissary, a centralized food receiving, pre-production and distribution center.  Here, all the food was received into the building through one loading dock several levels below ground.  The quantity of food deliveries to serve over 3,000 seats was quite challenging in itself, and deliveries had to be carefully scheduled to prevent traffic jams, both outside and inside the building. 

 While there were other foodservices there, like the Market Bar & Dining Rooms, the Eat & Drink, the SkyDive and the Tele-Deli on the sky lobby levels, we wanted to highlight the most memorable and the most unusual.

Working with Joe Baum, Warren Platner and the many others on the design team was fun and exciting.  We were creating something big, something memorable.

For our firm, the work we did on the World Trade Center is just what we do.  Think beyond.  Push forward.  Collaborate and achieve.  It is what our nation did then, does now, and will continue to do as long as we have imagination and spirit.

 by:  Diane Dowling
Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer
Washington, DC Office

In this election week, I have had an interesting confluence of thoughts about markets, who drives them, and how they shape our future. On Monday night, the eve of the election, I was doing what most parents do – waiting for my child to finish her extracurricular activities.  Waiting is not always a bad thing as it gives us time to think, read, or interact with others when normally our days are crammed with demands.  I took time to read that night, and found an interesting article in my alumni magazine from Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.  Philip Kotler, the distinguished and well-published Professor of International Marketing, was highlighted due to a new book called Marketing 3.0: From Products to Customers to the Human Spirit.  Now Kotler is definitely a product-focused marketing expert, and we are service-driven, but many times there are parallels.  This particular book defines the third revolution of the business world. Where the first was the Industrial Revolution and the second was the technology revolution, each shaping the world into the future, the third is driven by consumers’ “anxieties to make the globalized world a better place” and fed by “cheap computers and mobile phones, low-cost Internet access and open-source software” fostering a “’values-driven,’ networked world in which collaboration is easy and ubiquitous.”  The pressure is on businesses and marketers to understand the values of their buyers and to “integrate the right values into every aspect of their business, and then market that mission to their audience.”  Hold that thought.

Tuesday’s election was promoted as a challenge to the Democrats with the opportunity for the Republicans to take back the country.  As I was preparing to vote, yes finishing my homework at the last minute on election day, my daughter asked, “What’s the difference between a Republican and a Democrat?”  I explained, “Republicans believe the markets – consumer buying habits, for example – will drive the direction we head, for instance reducing gas consumption by buying cars which go farther per mile.  Democrats believe the government has to lead the people and create rules and programs that will drive the direction we head.”  So after the election, we learned how the voters decided we should head – a Republican concept by the way – and as a nation, we swung back to the Republicans.  From a marketing perspective, an election is perfect Kotler material.  How many of the candidates won because their values were more aligned with the markets?  How many won because they were better able to “market that mission to their audience?”  (And how much did the press influence us along the way?)

Skip forward to Wednesday night, when I became aware of a different way of looking at the values-driven marketplace.  I attended a PTA-sponsored presentation by the U.S. Attorney’s office about “Gangs and Gang-recruitment in Your Neighborhood.”  We were provided with a well-prepared presentation on criminal gangs, their colors, their attire, their signs, and so forth.  According to the presenter, we live in a “pro-gang culture” that demonstrates its acceptance and support of gangs through popular music, attire, and mimicking of gang behavior.  What attracts people to gangs?  The big take-away from this meeting was that gangs provide what people are lacking at home – a sense of belonging, security, and family.  How important is this message?  The basic human values, basic human needs are driving children to choose gangs.  And for me, the swirl of the week’s activities led me to recognize, “If you don’t provide what people are looking for, someone else will!” is more than a concern for business.  

So where do all these thoughts lead us?  Will the market drive the direction your firm is headed?  There are values important to your customer base, basic human values as well as values related to improving the world.  Is your company fully understanding these values, providing for them, and marketing to them?  Is someone else or will someone else if you don’t? 

On Monday, in my alumni publications, I also read about people – even children – who are doing great things to solve small parts of society’s ills and scientists who are doing great things to help solve humanity’s ills.  And they are doing it because it is needed – call that market-driven if you must, call it values-driven if you wish.  As a parent, it is just reassuring to see the future has so much potential.