By:  Theodore E. Farrand, FMP
President – Washington, DC Office

 Definition and Purpose:

 The term “programming” is a very broad category in the design world.  It can mean a simple list of rooms/spaces  with square footages assigned to each, or it can mean a detailed description of the operating parameters and design criteria for a new or renovation project. It can take many forms in between the two.

 The purpose of a Program in any design is to define the scope and parameters of the project that will guide the planners in all that is designed, so that the final product meets all the objectives of the client and users.

 A carefully developed design program saves time in the entire process, avoids costly changes after the design has been finalized, and is based on sound data and analysis early in the process to allow well thought-out decisions by the stakeholders of the project.

 Participants:

 In addition to the owners, architects, engineers, and others on the design team, other parties may also be involved in the early data gathering stage. Current or future operators, maintenance personnel, and customers are likely to have valuable insights to assist in the process.  There may also be an opportunity to survey the employee base for their input as to preferred food types and favorite outside dining establishments, which guides the planners in including food outlets that will likely be most successful.

 Objectives:

The goals of the owners must be the starting point.  A number of questions must be posed before any planning begins, such as:  What is the client’s vision for foodservice?  Do they want to update their older, facilities in exchange for a more efficient and/or sustainable operation?  Do they want to increase or decrease capacity to match a new demand?  What policies exist in this corporation’s culture that will affect the future foodservice, such as virtual work policies?  Do they have a cashless payment system in place today or do they want to implement such a system?   

 If they have no on-site foodservice today, do they need assistance in learning all about the capital, space and operating costs that will be required for full or scaled back foodservice operations?  What is the client’s estimated budget for the new or renovated facilities?   Visits to comparable sized operations can provide important impressions of what the client wants, particularly if they have no current foodservice or need to see new concepts that are popular today.

 Data Gathering:

 The basic information needed includes employee population, general breakdown of employee categories (i.e., portion of the staff that are in sales and therefore frequently out of the office, the portion that may be call center staff, who have very limited times for dining, the ratio of executive/management to general staff categories, etc.).  In addition, the projections for population growth are critical for the design team, as they must determine what the “design population” is to be.  In other words, what is the targeted population for the design?

If the project is a renovatiton, current operating statistics are very important and should include customer counts at all day parts, for every day, for a representative period, and if seasonality affects participation, then different months’ statistics may also be included.  This will tell the team what the current participation rates are today, and allow calculation of what the potential increased participation will be in the new facilities.  Current sales mix (what foods are purchased today) will help with planning the menu platforms for the new facilities. The amount of customers purchasing take out foods tells the team how much of the foodservice should be “express” or “grab n go” concepts versus “cooked to order” stations.  It is also important to understand check averages and client P&L or subsidy goals to understand what the market will bear in considering the stations to be included.

Concept Development:

 Today’s successful on-site dining concepts focus on foods freshly prepared in front of you, and incorporate healthful menu choices along with traditional foods. The “cafeterias” of yesteryear, with their huge kitchens and a sea of stainless steel steamtables have been replaced with “dining centers”, or “cafés”.  Servery Stations have been replaced with exciting “destinations”, where oftentimes food is prepared or finished to order in front of customers.   Fresh food displays, locally sourced foods, vibrant graphics all contribute to lively dining experiences today.  The majority of cooking is done in the servery, and much less in the kitchen.  The programmer must translate all the previous information into a clear list of what will be included in the new foodservices. What part does sustainability play in the project?  Is it to be LEED certified?  If so, have all possibilities for foodservice been considered, such as Energy Star equipment, variable speed exhaust hoods, composting and other solutions?

 Quantitative Requirements:

 The projected demand levels for the peak serving period guides the programmer to adequately size the facilities.  Industry rules of thumb are used to calculate the peak demand throughput. The dining spaces are sized based on the degree of comfort the owner desires.  Many dining rooms are subdivided spaces with a mix of types of tables: traditional tables for two and four, lounge type “soft” seating, bar type seating, etc.

 How do the sizing calculations relate to the expected operating costs?  Is the facility sized right?  Is the owner/client willing to subsidize operating costs if the offerings are more generous than the sizing directs?

 Cost estimates for major foodservice equipment is generated early, to which the architect adds the total costs of construction and other furnishings and finishes.  The estimates keep the project on target and are revised as the project progresses through each design phase.

 Strategies are often developed at this stage for the following elements:

 Centralization and decentralization:  If there is more than one point of service, is it practical to group some of the function components in one facility to be able to supply all locations?

  • Flexibility of Destinations:  How much flexibility should and can be incorporated into the design?  Future concept shifts are possible with counter top equipment versus drop in equipment.
  • Flows of customers, product, serviceware, and trash/garbage/recyclables/composting:  Have all logistical routes been optimized in the planning?

   Preparation for Schematic Design:

  The next tasks are for the client/owner and architect to approve or modify the written design program so that the foodservice designer can begin to test fit the available spaces.   The designer develops the foodservice facility with a logical plan following the natural flow of the foodservice:  loading/receiving dock, storage components, preparation and production, service/final cooking areas, cashiering, dining, tray return, dishwashing, potwashing, trash/garbage/recycling/composting functions.  The designer must follow the goals of creating efficient workstations, following all applicable codes.

 A well developed foodservice design program will serve as a solid foundation for the design that evolves.

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By: William V. Eaton, FFCSI – Chairman of the Board, Washington, DC Office
And Nahum Goldberg – Senior Associate, San Francisco Office

Culinary Schools tend to have a personality all to themselves, driven to a great extent by a combination of the teaching faculty and the history of the school itself.  Schools with decades, and in some cases centuries of history, have a strong basis in tradition.  That does not say that they are not forward thinking, just that there is history and tradition to be considered as they continue to mature.   Newer schools tend to look at the historic leaders for guidance and direction and then strive to match, or even surpass, the cornerstone institutions.  Each seems to find its place in the fabric of Culinary excellence, providing a firm basis in culinary skills and then fostering the individual growth of the student so that he or she can attain the position in the industry that fits the skills and passion exhibited.  

As we work with culinary schools across North America, we form a partnership with the various stakeholders including faculty and administration in order to define the ultimate goals of the institution and then work carefully to provide the tools necessary to meet the vision.  Standards of design often relate to the class size and individual laboratory and student workspace as well as how the workstations are developed and whether students work individually, in pairs, or occasionally in groups of four, or even six.  There is no “right” configuration, but one that meets the teaching format of the faculty.  Some important elements and considerations include accessible workstations, teaching and demonstration stations with maximal visibility by students, and the inclusion of 21st century technology options such as smart cameras and screens for demo stations, prep and cooking cams to view the Café kitchen, POS/printers/communications technologies in the Café, and where applicable, the infrastructure for educational recordings and broadcasts.  These details are narrowed down as a direct result of our research in the early programming phases. Generally, as the faculty and instructors download their ideas, we are able to combine and sort them into the best arrangement for each teaching application. 

The most significant trends in the industry relate to preparing the students for the vast array of culinary options that currently exist and are changing and expanding daily. While not every student is destined to be a highly acclaimed chef, just as not every athlete is destined to be an Olympic Medalist, none should be dissuaded from aspiring to that position.  Teaching laboratories require the best in equipment, a variety of manufacturers, and a variety of fuels. Flexibility in design is key to “future-proofing” the facility as menu, curriculum and area usages change over time.  This can be achieved by making cooking equipment mobile, plug-and-play and not built-in.  Utility systems (power, water, fire suppression systems and drains) can be placed at key locations to allow for equipment changes.  Worktables and other items can be put on casters with ceiling mounted cord reels.  In the end though, most students will find themselves to have seen their best kitchen while in school until such time as they have the backing to build their own restaurant or are fortunate enough to be selected to open a new property. 

The industry is focused on sustainability although no one is quite sure what that means.  To many it is simply “being green” yet the lengths one goes to attain that goal determines the seriousness of the commitment.   Fresh ingredients obtained locally is a big step, so a well-designed deboxing and washing station should be included for vegetable sanitation for local produce deliveries.  The behind-the-scenes actions of energy and water conservation, composting and recycling are important lessons as well and should be designed into the facility. A direct plumbed used cooking oil disposal system should be considered, providing a better product for biodiesel recycling in a safer, cleaner manner. 

One cannot ignore the importance of eating healthy food and making healthy choices in order to combat the problems facing the nation relative to the combined impact of obesity and hunger.   Working for a better nation and world through the knowledge of food done well cannot be overemphasized.  The culinary school environment should be one where students learn today’s methods and are inspired to create a better tomorrow.

By:  Ronald P. Kooser, FFCSI
CEO –  Cleveland Office

Johnny asks:  Why can’t I have an ATV, like all the other kids?

Suzy asks: Why can’t I have a pony like Jane?

In response, Johnny might get asked: “Johnny, will you take care of the ATV, provide fuel, maintain it, buy insurance? And where will you store it?” or Suzy gets asked: “Suzy, will you take care of the pony, clean the stall, buy feed, pay for the vet, etc.? And where will you keep it?”

Similarly, I hear from smaller facilities like 150 bed hospitals and 900 student colleges: “Why can’t I have a cafeteria like University hospital with 1,000 beds, or like State University with 40,000 students?”

It does seem similar, doesn’t it, when we receive requests from clients who all want Pizza made to order with hearth oven, a Deli made-to-order station, Salads made/assembled rather than a self-service salad bar, Pasta Station with ingredients assembled for each customer, Grilled sandwich made to order, etc.

And my response is similar too:  “Can you afford it? And do you have space for it?”  These features all take more space, and more labor, and more utility resulting in higher capital and operating costs.

Yet, foodservice is no longer a minor amenity to the building, no matter the population count. Colleges and hospitals are using foodservice to establish a high quality image.  Foodservice is also used for recruiting and retention, at both types of institutions.  In terms of justifying an investment by the ROI (Return On Investment), we have to ask: what is the return?  It might not be actual dollars, but rather more the human resources benefits. These intangibles sometimes justify the added expense by maintaining competitiveness in the marketplace, improving visitor, student and employee satisfaction, reducing staff turnover, reducing time away from the institution seeking other alternatives, and so forth.

Since it is difficult to put a dollar return to these benefits, we need to consider all avenues for reducing the costs.  Can stations be combined to reduce labor? Can hoods be minimized to reduce both capital and operating expenses?  We continue to evaluate until we reach that pivotal point where the facility best meets the needs of the client at a price the client can afford.

Of course, all this works best when the process is collaborative with the architects and engineers on the team.  Admittedly, they often enter the project with the perception that this will be the “typical” cafeteria operation for a smaller facility. Understanding the client’s broader objectives with the foodservice operation, we work with the design team to explain that more space and budget dollars will be needed than they have allocated.

All of these issues make the consultant’s job for the smaller facilities a real challenge, but that is what Cini•Little does:  collaborative partnering to plan functional and successful facilities.

 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:  Nahum Goldberg, LEED GA
Senior Associate – San Francisco, CA

Synopsis:  One area of innovation particularly relevant to my work is that of farm fresh produce sanitizing solutions for medium to small commercial kitchens. This is an up and coming food safety issue as more operations go Farm to Fork.

Why Sanitizing Produce is Becoming More of An Issue

Ready-to-eat packaged produce is being replaced with field fresh items that need deboxing and washing. This takes us back to the days before large produce processing plants began washing, cleaning, cutting and sanitizing our produce and delivering this convenience in sealed bags. Today, most of our clients are looking for fresh, in season, local farm-produced items. Our chef partners and their clients want to see and smell the source of the products. They want to step out into the muddy field and pick it themselves – and then flaunt their muddied field clothes to their clients.  Farm to Fork, transparency, reduced carbon footprint from transportation, greater freshness, local connection to seasonality and nature, social responsibility  – all these points are gaining momentum in the retail and institutional dining food industry and what is better to express these values than to support your local farm. But don’t forget to clean and sanitize the produce because the big daddy packaging plant is moving out of the picture.

Produce + Pathogens = Danger on Your Table

It did not take much research in the matter to learn that during a ten-year period from 1998 – 2007 the Centers for Disease Control recorded 684 outbreaks (an outbreak is more than 2 people sickened by the same source) involving 26,735 cases of illness from pathogen-contaminated produce. Over this period, produce was actually the second most common source of foodborne outbreaks, with total cases of illness nearly equaling all cases from poultry, beef and pork combined! So next time your stomach goes south, don’t necessarily blame that chicken, burger or porkchop because the source might have been the fresh garnish such as a sliced tomato, leaf of lettuce or chopped parsley…

Produce contamination can be very difficult to combat as fruits and vegetables are often served raw, without the heating or cooking which kills most pathogens. On top of that, produce has irregular shapes, oftentimes with nooks and crannies that can harbor  pathogens. And another thing we should know – cutting contaminated produce transfers the problem into the interior so wait until after it is cleaned and sanitized and use sanitized utensils.

So How Do We Set Up A Kitchen to Deal With This Problem?

In my role as a commercial kitchen designer, I am putting in a dedicated produce wash station in almost every application. Kind of reminds me of the days before packaged produce had inundated the commercial market.  Some areas of the world are still like that  –  washing and sanitizing everything – and there is a thriving equipment industry supporting this. Italian Nilma or German Kronen are great examples, both with products serving commercial kitchens and larger industrial applications.

Equipment, Means and Methods

Produce sanitizing options are varied with the most basic equipment solution being a worktable with a 2-compartment sink and a good pre-rinse faucet. Fruit and produce washing and sanitizing must precede slicing, cutting or other mechanical manipulation of the product.   The large packaged salad provider, Fresh Express, sponsored a symposium in Monterey, California in 2008 and presented 12 different research studies, two of which demonstrated how cutting, cubing or slicing prior to surface wash and sanitization enables pathogens to enter the vascular system of the plant. Light removal of outer leaves is  advisable as a first step.

But back to the equipment story… Moving up from the basic sink washing station we see integrated sinks with turbulent water wash pumps, sometimes with water chillers. Cold water is key to keeping the produce firm and better prepared for slicing or other mechanical processing. Continuous temperature control is advisable if the product will not be served for more than 4-6 hours after the processing. Ice is often added to the process water, and one should keep in mind, ice can be a source of contamination if not handled properly. Then there are basket and lift systems. Some systems, like Powersoak’s “Produce Soak” system and Steelkor/Duke’s “Xgreen”, in addition to using sophisticated turbulence pumps, integrate various chemical solutions as sanitizing agents and have procedural aids and monitoring systems built-in that assist in tracking for HACCP and assure a proper process has taken place. Nilma offers a two-basin system with controlled agitation which does not use chemicals, and they tout a very high level of success in removing pathogens. Nilma is reportedly moving forward with additional models for use in the growing US market.

Creating Pathogen Killing…  Water

Perceptions about chemical sanitizing of our fresh produce are sometimes negative. No one wants to tell their client that the lettuce just came out of a sanitizing solution or chemical treatment even if they are FDA approved, organic and totally non toxic.  It seems the next step would naturally be to seek out a solution to sanitizing that eliminates the need for chemicals. Enter Ozone and ECA generators into the produce stations.  San Jamar is offering its Saf-T-Wash System which is an ozone generator that provides ozonated water to rinse produce. No chemicals are used or washed down the drain. This is for soaking and final rinse systems. Produce should be soaked, rinsed and freed of any particles or oils. MVP from Montreal presented a recirculating sink set up with chilled, ozonated water.  They use their GO03 model WMS and also have an acivated carbon recirculating vent system so as ozone is released from the turbulent wash tank, it is drawn into the system and inactivated so staff is not exposed to ozone emissions that can otherwise present adverse health effects. There are Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) permissable exposure limits for ozone which must be met and the manufacturers must comply. Ozone has been shown to be a highly effective and fast acting oxidizing agent.  But like many things, controls are needed to protect safety and health.

Another “chemical free” system is Electro-Chemical Activation (ECA). These on-site devices use inputs of salt water and low voltage power to produce two non-toxic streams of elecrolytes.  One is a natural surfactant, the other a broad spectrum sanitizer. Coupled to a produce washing process, this rinsing system kills harmful bacteria and inactivates virus in a short time.  Most are inactivated on contact but additional contact time is advisable to better ensure reductions below infective levels.   The washing process may include rubbing, turbulence and spraying. The ECA rinse at the final stage helps seal the deal, reducing chances for cross-contamination. The ECA and ozone generator systems can be used in equipment sanitizing processes as well. Word is there are systems under development integrating the two solutions.

An ultrasonic system, under development in the late 90’s, was shelved when vibrations from the process transmitted through the sinks and tables and had adverse effects on welds and seams and the cost to integrate dampening made this enhancement impractical.  Some entrepreneurial group will likely find a way to overcome those detractions in the future.

Treat Your Produce Well and It Will Last Longer

All of the above solutions claim a longer shelf life is given to produce and that makes lots of sense – wash it properly, remove the  pathogens and it will stay fresher longer. Additionally, drying is a critical step for leafy products and various drying solutions exist from tabletop to large-scale machines.  Several centrifuge type systems exist today, and they are critical to extending shelf life of produce whenever there will be more than a day between processing and consumption.

Produce (Sanitation) is a Growing Issue

So, produce sanitizing is a growing concern.  Most of my clients are totally ‘on board’ with sourcing the local produce, though not all have realized the need for the careful sanitizing process. Others are aware of the threat of contamination, but have not found a viable, safe method or system.  It won’t take long for people to catch on and address the issue a bit more seriously. In the meantime we are designing the eqiupment solutions into our projects and many capable suppliers with varied equipment and peripheral solutions are lining up to meet the needs.

For further info check out the following:

Useful References

Equipment and Systems Providers

 

By:  Ted Farrand, FMP
President & COO

In the corporate dining centers at office buildings and other employee foodservice facilities, which are called “ON-SITE FOODSERVICE”, the factors that make them successful often depend on having the correct contract in place.  If you work in an office setting and your company provides a dining facility, consider yourself lucky. 

 WHAT MAKES ON-SITE DINING DIFFERENT FROM OUTSIDE RESTAURANTS?

There are many behind-the-scenes costs required to provide even the most minimal foodservice for employee dining settings, so many corporations avoid providing on-site foodservice and employees must find their own source for meals, most often for lunch.  The biggest difference between on-site dining facilities and outside dining options like restaurants and quick service outlets is that in the external market they have many more opportunities for capturing customers, unlike the on-site dining facility, which has a maximum number of potential customers—the number of employees at that location. Another significant difference is that outside restaurants can have a static menu, which has a higher profit margin.  The on-site dining facility must provide a wide variety of menu items, often changing them daily to keep the program interesting for the available employee population.  These all add up to higher costs of operation for the on-site dining facility.

HOW DO OWNERS/CLIENTS ARRANGE FOR ON-SITE DINING FACILITIES?

There are still companies that provide employee dining through an internal foodservice department—these are called “Self-Operated”. Many of these companies are emphatic in their belief that they can focus more on employee productivity, satisfaction and retention if they handle foodservice themselves.  The vast majority, however, contract foodservice out to a third partyto avoid the hassles and focus on their core business.

 HOW IS THE CONTRACT STRUCTURED FOR FOODSERVICE CONTRACTORS?

What motivates the contractor is the agreement that is in place.  There are two basic types of management agreements or contracts—“management fee” or “profit and loss”, with many hybrids of these in place today.

 Management fee contracts require the contractor to provide a foodservice program specified by the owner/client, and in return they are paid a management fee, typically as a percentage of revenues.

 Profit and Loss contracts require the contractor to provide a foodservice program that they specify and control, and the contractor receives payment for this service in the form of profits that are generated by the foodservice operation.

 The most basic management fee contract has the lowest risk to the contractor (of getting paid), and the highest risk to the owner/client (of a subsidy—where expenses exceed revenues).  The operator is guaranteed a fee and unless that contractor performs extremely poorly, will continue to receive the fee for services.  There are various limitations on these types of arrangements today, typically a budget adherence feature, where the contractor must maintain a budget of expenses to be below the total revenues, while also continuously working toward increasing revenues.  Other hybrids include guaranteed break-even arrangements, where the contractor takes a risk of having to cover any losses (subsidy), either with a subsidy “cap” or splitting of any losses with the owner/client.  This shifts more responsibility (risk) onto the contractor.

As we move farther up the scale of shifting risk from the owner/client to the contractor, we have the Profit & Loss contracts and its many versions. The pure profit and loss contract is very similar to a lease arrangement; however, the owner/client typically pays for all overhead (heat, light, space, maintenance and upkeep) and capital expenditures (equipment, furnishings).  In this arrangement, the contractor takes most of the risks of losses and may take most or all of the profits, depending on whether a profit split or profit cap arrangement has been established.

 SUMMARY

Whichever arrangement is in place, the most successful programs are those that provide an opportunity for steady income to the contractor and strong control by the owner/client of the expenses necessary for this important benefit for its employees.  What you see as the consumer is the operator’s skill in encouraging you to purchase meals from them, with creative menu items that are freshly prepared for you.  If all the contract conditions are correct, it is a true win for the owner/client, the  foodservice contractor, and most importantly, for you.

 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.