great balancing act
Presto and Dining Services try to satisfy varied tastes
To Susan Presto, the phrase "a balanced meal" has a dual meaning.
First, of course, is the nutritional connotation of the term. The second relates to customer service.
"Dining services is all about striking a balance," she says. "You try and meet the tastes and needs of the majority of the people you serve."
In a college setting, where complaining about cafeteria food is as traditional as tests and all-nighters, striking that balance is sometimes tough.
But Presto is a 22-year veteran of this balancing act. She's performed it at seven other institutions in seven states. Presto, who came to Furman in April as director of Dining Services, has worked at Southern Connecticut State University (New Haven), Iona College (New Rochelle, N.Y.), Choate Rosemary Hall (Wallingford, Conn.), United States Coast Guard Academy (New London, Conn.), University of Pacific (Stockton, Calif.), Montana State University (Billings) and University of Virginia (Charlottesville).
As a sophomore at Southern Connecticut State University, Presto picked up her first serving spoon. By her senior year she was a manager and maintained a 40-hour workweek.
"I just loved the day-to-day business and interacting with people," she says. "There is never a routine day. Every day is different and presents new challenges."
After graduating in 1982, Presto decided to remain with ARAMARK, the Philadelphia-based food service company that operated the Southern Connecticut's dining services. She has enjoyed her various moves with the company.
"It's like having a new job even though it's all under the umbrella of ARAMARK," Presto says. "Even though I've been with the same company, I've moved to different locations and worked with different people."
At Furman, Presto oversees a staff of approximately 150 people and says one of the most important components of her job is building relationships.
"We are only as good as our last meal served," she says. "Every meal must be a good experience. We encourage feedback from our customers."
Some of that feedback comes during monthly meetings with the dining committee and with AFS, as well as during annual meetings in the residence halls. In addition, "food for thought" comment cards and e-mail provide customers the opportunity to offer suggestions and compliments.
Presto also says she encourages the production manager and the individuals preparing the food to take a taste test - something she does herself.
"I'll be out there tasting the food and making sure we're following recipes. And if a dish was to start out too salty, it should be perfect by the time it gets to me."
-- by Aynoka Bender
ARAMARK's Presto juggles nutrition and taste
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Inside Furman is published monthly during the school year by the Furman University Department of Marketing and Public Relations. For story ideas, e-mail John Roberts, editor.