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What drives the nation’s top foodservice operators? We asked the 2018 Silver Plate Class and got an inside look at what makes them the operator all-stars they are today. Find out what they have to say about their passion for foodservice, career accomplishments and what it means to be part of a legendary group of operators.



C. Dennis Pierce, Executive Director Dining Services at University of Connecticut received the 2018 Silver Plate Award in the Colleges & Universities category. Nominated by Basic American Foods & Sysco.

What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice?

College dining brings students together creating food inspired community centers. Students who are obtaining a college degree have become increasingly challenged. The ability to have a career in food service that nourishes, provide education and establishes healthy eating habits for students is a rewarding career that is only limited by our imaginations.  My career has enabled me to partner culinarians, academics and front line employees in a dining arena that supports and enhances the holistic educational experience. 

Tell us about your biggest career accomplishment:

Creating a nationally known university dining program has been a long and arduous task but I would suggest it is my biggest career accomplishment. I am fortunate to have a committed and passionate staff that thrive on the culture of change. We often suggest that our dining program often looks different on a Friday then it did on the previous Monday. We have enhanced campus life by putting an emphasis on the flavorful food that we serve. We have embraced sustainability through prudent local and regional purchases, and through our collaboration with the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative. We have focused our environmental efforts both on the plate and our back of the house operations. As a result we believe that we are accomplishing our goal of preparing students who will establish good eating habits that will impact their health for the rest of their lives. 

How is your segment making a difference for the foodservice industry?

College and University food service is an incubator for new ideas. We create trends by listening to our student’s wants and desires. College and University food service operations are being driven by a generation of students whose habits, tastes and expectations have changed faster and more dramatically than ever. It has impacted decision making in everything from product sourcing, equipment specifications and staffing to dining hall design.

We make a difference in the food service industry by being the most innovative and responsive in the industry. Our programs have been a recruiting tool. Prospective students now carefully select the quality of campus dining as well as how they are able to meet their dietary needs along with academic offerings.

College and University foodservice feed thousands of repeat customers multiple times every day. We have learned that we are only as good as our last meal served. Since students have in most cases pre-purchased meal plans whenever we fall short of meeting their expectations the end result finds it way through social media at light speed. Our programs are offered in a variety of design forward market-style. Students dine on globally influenced menus planned and prepared by trained culinarians. It must be fresh, organic, local or regional.

What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?

  1. Adopt the phrase, “If you ignore it you condone it” as your mantra. As you go about your daily tasks and you notice something that is inconsistent to operational standards and you do not take any action to remedy the situation then in essence you are saying that the issue is acceptable. Whether it is trash on the floor, employees out of uniform, recipes not being followed per direction, all of these that go unmentioned now create a substandard that may become acceptable behavior.
  2. Do not be a trend follower, be a trend setter.  Think outside of the box. Be concerned with your daily operations but also be a visionary and plan a year ahead.
  3. Read everything food related that you can get your hands on. From the food section of the Wednesday, New York Times to every trade journal that you can sign up for. Find a seed of an idea? Tear out the page and create a file system that you can draw from when you are in search of ideas.

What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?

I have never interpreted this award as one that is won by one individual. No man or women accomplishes their goals without the support of others. Winning the Silver Plate means that our organization and exemplary dining service is being recognized by the foodservice industry and all our staff’s hard work and accomplishments are realized. From the front line server to our chefs and management team, their efforts have now come to fruition. Sometimes referred to as the Academy Awards of the Food Service Industry, receiving the Silver Plate is one of the most prestigious awards that can be bestowed.  It is the recognition that we are on the right path; that following our goals does work, that doing what we love and what we are passionate about ... works. To quote Vine Lombardi, “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined efforts of each individual”.


Join us at the 2018 IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Awards Celebration and help us in honoring C. Dennis Pierce and the rest of the Silver Plate Class. Click HERE for event information and to reserve your table now!