Director, Food & Nutrition Services
Resurrection Medical Center/Holy Family Medical Center
Chicago and Des Plaines, IL
What's On Ron's Plate?
Annual Retail Sales: $2.4 million
Annual Budget: $2.6 million (salary), $2 million (supply)
Employees: 135 persons
Annual Meals Served: 1.2 million (780,000 retail, 300,000 patient, 120,000 catering)
Avg. Daily Census: 80%
Retail outlets: 3
Ron Rech does not toot his own horn. Ask him about his accomplishments and he will give you the blandest possible "just the facts ma'am" rundown of operational details at the facilities he oversees.
Yet, in many ways, the ultra-low-key Rech is everything that healthcare foodservice strives to be: an "operator's operator" who is both a master of the "blocking and tackling" fundamentals of running an efficient in-house foodservice, and an instinctive and uncompromising advocate of hospitality as a core value in the front of the house.
What casual observers may not perceive, however, the insiders understand, which is undoubtedly why the Silver Plate jury chose to recognize Rech with the 2006 Silver Plate award for Healthcare Foodservice
Rech serves as head of food & nutrition services for two major Chicago-area medical facilities: Resurrection Medical Center in the city and Holy Family Medical Center in suburban Des Plaines. Together, they serve 1.2 million meals annually.
In addition to his direct oversight duties at Resurrection and Holy Family, Rech chairs the Foodservice Committee for parent organization Resurrection Health Care, which is the largest Catholic healthcare system in Illinois. The 23 Resurrection facilities (nine hospitals, 10 long-term-care facilities and four retirement centers) serve more than 30,000 meals a day to residents, patients, staff, visitors and guests at catered events.
Among his many accomplishments in his role as Foodservice Committee chairman, Rech was instrumental in the development of a systemwide corporate patient menu and in forging a fruitful partnership with primary suppliers Premier, Inc., and US Foodservice to develop the menu program.
In his own operations, Rech has overseen the flowering of Resurrection Medical Center's Cafè Res into one of the healthcare segment's most impressive retail operations. While he can't take credit for its award-winning design, everything else about Cafè Res, from the resplendent food to the sparkling service, is pure Ron Rech.
Rech began his foodservice career modestly, bussing tables in a Chinese restaurant and then serving as a foodservice attendant in a hospital while still a teenager. He took business courses in college then went to work at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago, first as foodservice supervisor, later as assistant foodservice director and then director for more than 20 years.
While working at St. Joseph, Rech also developed considerable retail foodservice experience by opening and operating his own independent commercial restaurant, Chicago Experience, in the city's Lincoln Park neighborhood, operating it for seven years.
After earning an advanced degree in business, in 1996 Rech joined Resurrection Medical Center, which had just completed extensive (and architectural award winning) remodeling of Cafè Res. This food-courtstyle cafeteria can accommodate 300 guests in the dining area and a hundred more in an attractive outside courtyard that features a water fountain with pool and garden.
"My mandate was to strengthen the foodservice operation, to streamline wherever needed, to develop a true team within the department and to enhance the new cafeteria," Rech says. "In that cafeteria, I was challenged to complement the renovated structure with a new menu that would focus not only on health but improve the overall quality of the foodservice and drive the sales volume to where it should be. I was also asked to get our menu out to all the people we serve."
In developing menus for his retail and patient meal operations, Rech makes sure to work closely and to mutual benefit with suppliers. For example, during his Courtyard Wednesday events (held in Cafe Res's outdoor courtyard dining area during the summer), it is common to find promotions in which free samples of trial products developed by Resurrection Health's manufacturer partners are served. The events are a win for everyone: the customers who get free food, the cafè, which gains customer satisfaction points, and the manufacturers, who get a golden opportunity to test products with real customers in a relaxed, natural setting.
Through his menu development efforts, and by putting the Cafè Res menu (along with nutritional information and even photos of the cafè) on the medical center's intranet, Rech helped boost retail revenues by 25 percent in the past four years. Sales at Cafè Res exceeded $2 million in 2005.
In the patient dining area, Rech is currently experimenting with sending tuxedoed servers to patient rooms in mid-afternoon to deliver snacks and refreshments to both patients and their visitors as a gesture of hospitality. It's also a chance for his staff to interact directly with customers.
A manager who realizes that one big secret to success is good relations with employees, Rech encourages a team-based approach that rewards good work. Many of his managers are internal promotions.
In addition to his very full-time position managing dining services at the two medical centers, Rech has found time to get involved in the industry as a whole. He is an active member and former board member of the National Society for Healthcare Foodservice Management (HFM), a member of the Food Service Committee of Premier, Inc., the country's largest hospital buying group as well as a member of the Dietary Managers Association (DMA) as well as the Northern Illinois Foodservice Executives. If that weren't enough, he also recently joined the advisory board for Loyola's School of Dietetics and Campbell Soup's Insight Operator Board.
How to Drive Retail Sales
Ron Rech is known and admired for the high quality and notable success of his retail operations, especially Cafè Res, the awardwinning cafè at Resurrection Medical Center. Here are some tips from Rech, a former commercial restaurateur with a keen sense of what drives sales and attracts discretionary dollars, on how to boost retail sales in an onsite environment.
Change your menu often. "Be as creative as possible. For example, we have a specialty counter which which we'll convert into a carving station one day and a stir-fry the next day. Also, at every counter, we adapted a specialty of the day, so at every station there will be at least one new item in addition to the set menu."