Spring Conference Sessions




   The Flavor of Living: Mastering the Art of Work-Life Balance
   Chef Sandra Lewis

   Does your life move at ludicrous speed? Up, often before sunrise. Collapse into bed long after dark. Life can feel like a tasteless buffet of fast food.

But there is hope! Join this fun and interactive opening session to learn how to Master the Art of Work-Life Balance. Chef Sandra will share the recipe and the skills needed to cook up a satisfying life, rich in relationships and passionate pursuits both at home and at work. And she’ll be cooking up something good.   


"IT’S OK TO PLAY!" Gaming Your Way to a Rich Workplace Where People Produce Tasty Results
Frank Kitchen

Did you know that games can be used to boost the morale of your team and produce award winning results? In this interactive learning experience, Frank Kitchen will get you up and moving as he provides you with the ingredients needed to cook-up a nurturing workplace where people are valued as an essential RESOURCE necessary for producing the tasty results desired by all. You’ll see firsthand how "games" can be used to RECRUIT people to your organization craves for; RECOGNIZE their talents and special skills; RETAIN their services and REWARD their efforts and achievements.
What you will learn:

  • How to foster an inclusive culture for staff, volunteers and members  
  • How to increase productivity and profits through effective communication and collaboration 
  • Innovative training techniques for increasing retention of members, volunteers or staff 
  • Creative strategies for engaging, energizing, and rewarding your team

Learning Sessions

Peaches, Mozzarella + Tie Dye Training your team

Suzi Cozzens, Assistant Manager RISD Dining – Portfolio Café, Rhode Island School of Design
Jennifer Vieira, General Manager, Rhode Island School of Design

Our team consists of approximately 80 people from many backgrounds and cultures with varied roles and responsibilities. Our objective during our annual all-staff training day was to bring awareness to the interconnectivity of all individuals.  We developed a strategy to unite our team through a theme of circles including table arrangement, printed materials and group activities combined with a seasonal token of thanks (fresh local peaches and handcrafted mozzarella).  Additionally we invited the Director of the Office of Institutional Discrimination + Title IX (here at RISD) to speak about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.


The Future of Meal Plans with RIT Dining

Susan Blaha, Associate Director – Business Services, Rochester Institute of Technology
Erin Hartter, Business Relations Manager, Rochester Institute of Technology 
Jake Reed, Reporting & Data Specialist, Rochester Institute of Technology

Join RIT Dining as we discuss our recent technology transitions with our transaction processing system and point of sale software to learn how it has had an effect on our business model and the way we serve our community. Additionally, we will provide insight to the configuration of meal plans and important policies that have allowed us to streamline the services we offer to our students. Learn from our experiences by gaining an insight to where we started and where we are now.

Accommodating Dietary Restrictions: An Empathetic & Inclusive Approach 

Danielle Leonard, RD, LDN, Manager of Nutrition Services, Smith College
Lauren Smith, M.Ed, RD, LDN, Director of Nutrition and Wellness, North Carolina State University
Emily Svennevik, MPH, RD, LDN, Registered Dietician Campus Dining, Vanderbilt University

Inclusivity is a critical component of a successful dining program. This interactive session provides an opportunity to learn about dietary restrictions and how to serve students with empathy and respect. University dining dietitians will discuss how dietary restrictions are handled at their respective schools, along with tips for creating an inclusive dining program. During the session, participants will be assigned a dietary restriction before navigating a buffet and attempting to build a plate that is safe for them. The session will conclude with a virtual panel discussion of students with various dietary restrictions.

Blending Nutrition and Culinary Arts, Creating a Hybrid Position that Focuses on Safe Food, Allergies and Culinary Development.

Marty Dudek, Senior Associate Director of Dining, College of the Holy Cross
Bradley Shannon, Senior Assistant Director of Culinary Development and Nutrition, College of the Holy Cross

Do all schools need a full time dietitian to be successful and safe? This is the question that we asked ourselves at Holy Cross Dining when our dietician position became available. Come listen to our transition from having an Assistant Director/Dietitian to a Senior Assistant Director of Culinary Development and Nutrition. We will share our successes and failures.


Using Customer Satisfaction Data to Inform Decisions

Laura Pontier, Assistant Director of Operations Development, Virginia Tech

How do you utilize customer satisfaction data? The student voice is loud, but how do you quantify it? Data driven decision making is more important than ever to meet the needs of today's students. Expand your knowledge of quantitative and qualitative assessment methods to inform current and future programming decisions. Learn about a variety of methods for data collection and how to disseminate the received information.

A Community of Caring: The Important role of Dining Services

Dr. Mark Reed, Director of Health Service, Dartmouth College

Dr. Mark Reed will review the increase in mental health concerns nationally over the last decade and will also examine the impact of COVID on mental health.  As a group, we will discuss and explore ways to enhance a community of caring.


Creating Powerful Strategic Partnerships

Randy Benko, Director of Foodservice Sales, Driscoll’s
Rafi Taherian, Associate Vice President, Yale Hospitality, Yale University
Ken Toong, Executive Director Auxiliary Enterprises, UMass – Amherst
Fleur Veldhoven, Vice President of Marketing, Nestle Professional
Cassie Hoover, MS, RD, LD,  Senior Manager of Nutrition and Sustainability, Nestlé Professional
Moderated by: Charlie McConnell, Director of Insights & Best Practices, IFMA

Campus Dining is a major factor in recruiting top students and creating campus culture. Collaboration between the supply chain and operators is one of the crucial factors in providing customers with a positive experience and to grow our business. The C&U segment is an incubator for innovation, according to a UMass Living Laboratory Study, over 80% of graduates will continue dining habits after graduation.  This session will provide key in sites on  how leaders must transition from transactional to strategic partnerships in the $8.5B College & University segment. 


Digging Into Retention: Changing the Things You Can (and Knowing What You Can’t)

Dustin Cutler, Senior Executive Director of Cornell Dining and Cornell Retail Services, Cornell University
Brandon Fortenberry, Senior Manager of Training and Development, Cornell University

We, Dustin and Brandon, are thrilled to participate in this year’s NACUFS Spring Conference - Amherst, and to connect with all of you.  This presentation explores “what comes next” as it relates to hiring and retention strategies; some techniques and initiatives we have explored in Cornell Dining that have led to successfully maintaining our staffing levels post-pandemic, and developing the workforce we have now for the business we hope to do in the future.  We’ve all felt overwhelmed at times regarding the shape of today’s labor market, and this session is intended to open up the conversation with our colleagues about the Things We Can Change, and the Things We Can’t.  We plan to discuss ways to collaborate with your university partners in hiring and recruiting, creative methods to getting your organization’s name out in the local community, and most importantly: how to maintain your team’s culture throughout it all, to ensure that the hiring numbers you get are the retention numbers you keep.

Guest Experience Student Panel – Top Engagement Questions Answered

They are your customers. You see them everyday but may only occasionally have an opportunity to find out what they think of your operation. Do you wonder what gets the student consumers of today excited? What makes them more loyal? What turns them off? What they are looking for? And how to better attract and engage them? Join moderator, Garett DiStefano, Director of Dining, University of Massachusetts, and student representatives from several local universities for a panel discussion on these topics and more. What tidbits and ideas will you walk away with?

I Live F.R.E.S.H.! Crafting the Mindset Needed to Stimulate Your Productivity and Profits

Frank Kitchen - “The Mindset Master Chef”

How is the Culture of your Organization impacting Your Mindset? During this interactive learning experience, Frank Kitchen will challenge you to break through the mental barriers that are extinguishing your hopes and dreams. He will entice you to get hungry and make the mental commitment needed to cook up the tasty results people hunger for. Bring your Appetite, as Frank personally demonstrates his proven recipe for crafting a Mindset needed to stimulate Career Advancement, Productivity and Profits for You and Your Team.


Leadership, Ideal Team Player, Activate Your Organization

Joel Adour, Director of Foodservice Sales, Branding Iron – Holten/Rochester Meat Company

Great leadership does not happen by accident and great leadership can be learned and developed. Understanding 10 characteristics of great leadership can guide us through the process. Great leaders can develop team players. The foodservice industry is all about developing great teams and team players. Team players possess three common characteristics. Knowing these will help you choose the right team members and help guide you through coaching your team. Finally, there are three critical types of conversations you need to know in order to activate different levels within an organization. Being aware of what type of conversation applies to a given interact is key to be an effective communicator. I will address Leadership, Ideal Team Players and three types of conversations in this session.


Decision Maker to Transformative Leader - How to inspire institutional growth

Terry Baker, Executive Director of Dining Services, University of RichmondKory Samuels, Associate Vice President Auxiliary Services, Rochester Institute of TechnologyModerated by: Andrew Mankus, Director of Residential Dining Operations, University of Massachusetts
Moderated by: Andrew Mankus, Director of Residential Dining Operations, University of Massachusetts

What makes a great leader?  How do you inspire the next generation of college & university leaders? Dining leaders today are faced with more challenges than ever before.  Leaders shape the personality of an organization which can make or break an operation.  Join moderator, Andrew Mankus, Director of Residential Dining Operations, University of Massachusetts, and a panel of expert dining leaders for a discussion on how key moments in their careers helped carve their own path to becoming successful leaders in the industry.  Learn how to manage up and manage down to become the best leader you can be.


Pasta 101 – Fundamentals to Basic Pasta Cookery

James Benson, Director of Culinary Excellence, Yale Hospitality, Yale University

Join Chef James as he demos pasta dishes that will be part of the Yale Hospitality Mediterranean Culinary Concepts collaboration with MDR.