Beth Bauters: "My internship was like a ten month interview!"
Beth Bauters first appeared on the onsite foodservice "scene" in 2003. We met Bauters at FM's inaugural IDEAS conference in 2005. She was there to learn the retail ropes—so to speak. Coming from a clinical background, Bauters looks forward a bright future in foodservice management.
With a degree in dietetics, Bauters switched career-gears after graduation. Instead of following the clinical path like many of her friends, she was asked to be a retail manager at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) where currently she oversees four retail operations.
What prompted your interest in nutrition and dietetics?
When I was little, I wanted to grow up and be a nurse just like my mother. In her late 30s, my mom became diabetic. She went to a nutritionist and came back with tons of pamphlets, papers and books on nutrition and healthy eating. As I read through some of the information, I knew right away that I wanted to be a dietitian. I'm from Indiana, Purdue University was practically my next door neighbor and happens to have one of the best R.D. programs in the country. I graduated from Purdue in 2003 and started at UIHC soon after.
Now you oversee four retail outlets in a hospital; that's not a typical career path for a new R.D...
One of the food and nutrition services mangers I had worked with during my internship called me about the position. She said she thought I had management potential based on my internship, so I interviewed for the position. I didn't think I'd get hired, but I did. So my internship was kind of like a ten month interview!
How has your perception of food service changed?
Before my internship, I associated foodservices with school "lunch ladies." (Some of my friends still call me that!) Honestly though, I assumed it was boring—the same food everyday. I had a pretty negative perception overall. I know now that it's really quite exciting. There is a lot of different ways to prepare high quality, healthful food items. There are a lot options available—it's not always just mashed potatoes and hair nets.
Your friends call you "the lunch lady?"
I don't know if my friends understand what I do exactly. It's hard to explain all the stuff behind the scenes—nutrition education, marketing, testing products, recipe development, etc. Our generation tends to take things at face value. I myself didn't see all the components until I was part of the inner workings. If I could change anything about this industry, that's what I'd change: the perception of foodservice among twentysomethings.
How do you integrate dietetics into retail management?
Being a dietitian in a retail environment has been really challenging—my goal is to incorporate nutrition in the fast paced grab-and-go atmosphere. What better place to prove that nutrition can be both quick and convenient than in a retail outlet? Another dietitian and I started a "nutrition-to-go" stand once a month. We offer a free healthful snack to customers with a recipe card. All of the items are made on campus. Nutrition-to-go highlights items that customers might otherwise know nothing about. Since we started the program, we've seen sales increase.
What are some of the essential skills of a retail manager?
You have to have be flexible. Dietitians aren't always known for being flexible, but I consider than an important goal. One of my interns actually told me I'm a "fake dietitian" because I'm so relaxed about things. I'm still organized and efficient, but having a good sense of humor helps me a lot.
I also think every manager needs to have worked a variety of jobs, especially front line positions. And I think everyone in this business should experience being a waiter or a waitress at least once in their life.
Why is that?
It helps you to understand both sides of the business. I've always worked in some sort of foodservice establishment. I was a grocery store bagger. I worked at a Dairy Queen. I was a waitress. I worked in a hospital cafeteria in college as a cashier. I even worked at WIC for a while too. Those experiences have helped me to be a better manager, because I know the jobs I supervise.
If you weren't a retail manager, what would you be?
A stand-up comedian.
"Joan gives young people the chance and opportunity to exceed as managers while mentoring them to become educated and successful in the field of Food and Nutrition."
What did you want to be when you grew up?
What surprised you about what you do?
What food trends interest you?