Students Learn About Sustainability, Innovation and ‘Being Human’ at Compass Day

CJ Rodger '17 speaks with JWU students about life as a Compass Group employee.

Ask anyone at Compass Group North America what the most important aspect of their company is, and they’ll all give you the same answer: the people.

Christopher Fisette ’14, senior banquet manager for Levy (a Compass Group company), said it best: “At the end of the day, we’re all human beings.”

It was a common theme that ran throughout this year’s Compass Day, an annual event on JWU’s Providence Campus. As the 6th largest publicly-traded company in the world, Compass Group North America is an internationally recognized family of leading food and support services companies that includes Chartwells, Flik, Levy, FoodBuy and Crothall Healthcare, among others. Compass Group's reach is diverse — the company services award-winning restaurants, corporate cafés, hospitals, schools, arenas, museums and more.

As part of this year's Compass Group visit, JWU College of Hospitality Management students attended career panels, listened to in-class presentations, and participated in networking opportunities with Compass Group employees — some of them JWU alumni. In fact, at last count, there are 688 JWU alumni working for Compass Group and their family companies. And hiring more JWU grads is a priority, according to Eileen Springer, senior vice president of talent acquisition & development for Compass Group: “We know that Johnson & Wales students and grads have the ambition, drive and skills to do well at Compass Group. JWU students also tend to move up the ranks here quickly.”

Panelists echoed these sentiments. Catherine (“CJ”) Rodger ’17, assistant director of dining services for Chartwells at Pace University in New York, said, “I was exactly where you were a short time ago. It’s surreal to think I’m up here addressing you all now as a graduate working in their industry, with Compass Group.”

Adds John Moran ’08, regional director of patient experience for Crothall Healthcare, “I’ve never thought twice about going anywhere else. There’s so much room to grow within Compass Group."

Some may think that a company as large as Compass Group (with $17 billion in revenue and 2,000 hospitality employees across the US) might not be able to connect with its employees at the ground level, or that the company’s only concern is increasing profits. But according to all of the panelists, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Said Shay Johnson, talent acquisition manager for Levy, “I ask 2 questions of every person I interview: ‘Do you think you’re a nice person?’ and ‘What are you passionate about?’ Those answers are the most important things that will get you in the door here. Once you’re in, you control your destiny.”

“There’s a culture of family here — we operate together as 1 unit. We all fail together, or we all succeed together,” added Frisette.

Speakers' panel made up of Chartwells employees  talk to JWU students

"At the end of the day, we're all human beings."

Employee recognition is at the heart of Compass Group’s core values. Their internal tagline for employees — “altogether great” — is something they live by every day, according to Johnson, who described how Compass Group honors employees in his company: “We have the Levy Legends program, which recognizes anyone who goes above and beyond their job requirements. Most of the time, the things that these employees are recognized for aren’t things they told anyone they’ve done — customers will write to us, and that’s how we find out. Those employees who are chosen as Levy Legends receive a bonus and a trip to Chicago, where the CEO reads their story and gives them an award. It’s a wonderful way to recognize all that these employees have done during their time at the company — some for 40 or 50 years.”

Giving back to the community is another core value for Compass Group. Molly Hudson, general manager of the Flik Conference Center at Harvard Medical School, said, “After conferences and other events at the center, there are a lot of extra supplies — notepads, pens, backpacks — that we used to just recycle. Now, we save those supplies, and at the end of the year donate them to an organization that helps homeless students in Boston, so that those students have what they need to go to school.”

Moran concurred: “I lost my grandfather to heart disease. Because of that, raising awareness for heart disease has been important to me. So every year, my whole team and I will do the Heart Walk 5k in New York City to honor my grandfather. That’s one of the best parts about working here at Compass Group: They give you the opportunity to get involved and serve the community in ways that are important to you personally.”

Panelists also recognized that Compass Group listens to another group of people — its clients and the populations it serves, finding out what's most important to them. Take sustainability, for example. "It's definitely a client priority. All clients will ask what we're doing to further sustainability efforts," said Moran. "That means it's a Compass Group priority, too. Doing the right thing is embedded in our culture."

"At Pace University, we use all biodegradable utensils and plates," said Rodger. "When you think about the fact that Chartwells serves 9.4 million meals a day, that adds up to a lot of waste. So this is a good step forward."

According to Phil DelGiudice, vice president of implementation for FoodBuy, "Compass Group is setting pace in the area of sustainability. We often ask ourselves, 'Where can we make the biggest impact?'"

And when it comes to innovation, Compass Group has that covered, too. "Levy has an entire division called 'curiology.' Its entire purpose is to come up with new, creative and inventive ideas and initiatives," said Fisette.

"At our conference center, we've come a long way with technology," said Hudson. "We have interactive livestreams for off-site conference participants, which also helps minimize the carbon footprint of meetings. We also offer 3D floorplans of our space, so off-site or international clients can visualize how their event would work, to their specifications."

Added Hudson, "Clients are looking for Compass Group to be a thought-leader, who will bring those big ideas to their clients. If you can do that, it makes you invaluable."