Inside a community of more than 4,500 students, faculty and administration at Gannon is a bustling food hub that sustains and nourishes the university members.
Metz Culinary Management is headquartered in Dallas, Pa., and provides a “Guest First” philosophy serving a variety of markets including healthcare, corporate dining, higher education and independent and public schools.
The Pennsylvania-based dining management service, formerly known as Metz & Associates, has been contracted by Gannon as its sole dining provider since 1995.
Metz was founded in 1994 by entrepreneur John C. Metz after he achieved success starting similar custom food service providers like Custom Management Corp.
Metz, 73, has since passed the title of CEO to his son, Jeff Metz, but still acts a president of Metz Enterprises, Inc. which owns and operates T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants in Pennsylvania and New Jersey along with two Krispy Kreme franchises in Pennsylvania, according to Buisnessweek.com.
The company also runs various hotel franchises in northeastern and western Pennsylvania and offers food services for local school districts and health systems.
Metz Culinary Management is employed by multiple Erie companies and schools, including Erie School District, Harborcreek Youth Services, Mercyhurst Preparatory School, Erie Insurance and Lord Corp. So what does Metz Culinary Management offer here at Gannon?
There are five options for students, faculty, staff and occasionally downtown Erie workers searching for a quick meal. Beyer Cafeteria is the largest of the four options and is centrally located in the Waldron Campus Center.
Beyer provides an all-you-can-eat buffet including a cook-to-order grill location that offers hamburgers, turkey burgers, hot dogs, chicken patties, grilled chicken, grilled cheese, chicken tenders and nuggets, French fries and an assortment of toppings. The café also offers a deli with wraps, flatbreads, sandwiches and subs.
A pizza and pasta bar is included in the buffet with at least two different kinds of pizza daily. There is a soup and salad bar along with a signature entrée section, too. For dessert, bakery treats like cookies, cake and pudding can be found near an ice cream bar that is stocked with eight flavors.
Beyer Cafeteria is open on weekdays from 7:15 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. for breakfast, 10:45 until 1:45 p.m. for lunch and 4:30 till 8 p.m. for dinner. Weekend times are shifted to accommodate students sleeping in.
Doc’s Landing – a grill-style restaurant stocked with hamburgers, grilled chicken, cheese steaks, Italian sausage, meatball subs and chicken wings – is the second largest location Metz offers. Doc’s also supplies on-the-go Gannon students with prepackaged sandwiches or salads.
Doc’s Landing is open from 7:15 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays closes down at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday operate noon until 7 p.m.
A Mexican-style eatery located in the Waldron Campus Center, Knights Cove, lends diversity to the Metz menu. Burritos, quesadillas, wraps, taco salads and smothered nachos headline the menu at Knights Cove.
The small, fast-paced eatery gives students a quick and filling option but the speedy tempo doesn’t stop one Knights Cove’s worker from connecting with students.
Ann Hayes, a Knights Cove line server and Metz employee since 2010, brings a positive, caring and mother-like charm with her every day. The student interaction is what Hayes said is her favorite part of working for Metz.
“I think I am like a mother; I’m mother-aged to you guys,” Hayes said. “It’s nice that the students interact with us. That you’re not thinking, ‘Oh boy, that old lady is trying to talk to me.’”
Hayes previously worked at American Sterilizer Company for 16 years until Steris Corp. bought AMSCO and eventually moved Erie jobs to Mexico. With children in private school, Hayes sought work again to balance out expenses.
The fulltime Metz job, including benefits like dental insurance and summers off, brought her to Gannon, Hayes said. Knights Cove seemed to have improved since Hayes began working because she focuses on great customer service.
“I’m all about giving great customer service,” Hayes said emphatically. “That’s what I stand for.”
Waldron Campus Center isn’t the only university location providing Metz food service, housing Knights Cove, Beyer Cafeteria and Doc’s Landing.
The last two Metz food service options at Gannon, Intermetzo Café and Courtyard Café, are located in academic buildings.
The Intermetzo Café, located on the second floor in A.J. Palumbo Academic Center, offers an upscale coffee barwith cappuccinos, lattés, espresso drinks and Seattle’s Best Coffee. The Intermetzo also has made-to-go sandwiches and baked delights like muffins and brownies.
The Courtyard Café is located in Robert H. Morosky Academic Center and features a Market Street Deli offering fresh made-to-order deli sandwiches, wraps and flat bread sandwiches and pizzas.
The man responsible for the success or failure of these five campus food stops is Pete Mannarelli, a Metz division general manager since 2001. He has been working at Gannon with Metz in dining management since 1995.
Metz Culinary Management employs 85 workers at Gannon, according to Mannarelli. He said his responsibilities are to supervise and ensure smooth operation in terms of menu selection, food preparation, balancing of funds and employee scheduling, among other tasks.
According to Mannarelli, Metz Culinary Management is a good company because of its core values and family oriented nature. Metz’s website, metzculinary.com, lists six core values on its website.
Hospitality – welcoming and delighting people. Fun – celebrating success and recognizing the best in others. Integrity and fairness – communicating clearly, being reasonable and open to differences and doing the right thing.
Quality – attention to details; setting and hitting high standards. Balance – keeping our promises to each of our stakeholders without sacrificing one for another. And finally, respect and caring – honoring the culture and worth of people; seeing to their comfort without the expectation of return.
These core values are instituted from the CEO down through the general managers and all Metz employees. Mannarelli said it is the small, family-oriented nature of Metz that separates it from competition.
“It’s nothing for me to have a conversation with the CEO or president, where with bigger companies that is unheard of,” Mannarelli said.
Communication is essential for Mannarelli and Metz Culinary Management. With monthly visits from the district manager, Mark Carone, constant input and feedback occurs. There are also monthly employee meetings.
“Employees are what it’s all about,” Mannarelli said. “If you keep them happy they are going to do a better job for you, and if you don’t, you know, customers will not be very happy with service.”
Metz Culinary Management also conducts yearly employee surveys online, Mannarelli said. The questions range from quality of worker treatment to whether employee’s ideas and thoughts are respected and heard.
Mannarelli instituted a survey committee seven years ago that includes a few employee leaders from each operation at Gannon – Knights Cove, Beyer Cafeteria, Doc’s Landing – who sit down and voice opinions that may not have been said directly to higher management.
Extra efforts for stable, two-way communication throughout the company may be what help Metz Culinary Management consistently rank in the top 20 of Food Management Magazine’s 50 best management companies.
In 2013 Metz Culinary Management ranked 19th, according to Food Management, 20th in 2012, 18th in 2011 and 21st in 2010. Since the company was passed on to Jeff Metz three years ago, expansion has been evident.
The company’s goal with Jeff Metz as CEO is to double its size in 10 years, Mannarelli said. It is right on track to do that and maybe even a little ahead of schedule.
According to Food Management Magazine, sales have grown significantly since 2008. There has been a growth of more than $22 million during the four-year span from 2008 to 2012. In that same time, the number of contracts Metz Culinary Management has made jumped by 24 as well.
So what is the comparison between Metz and the other two Erie universities? Gannon is the only college that contracts with Metz. Mercyhurst University uses Parkhurst Dining as its food service management and Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, uses a Penn State-owned food service.
Parkhurst Dining is a division of Eat’n Park Hospitality Group and is located in Pittsburgh. Parkhurst serves other regional colleges like Duquesne University, Allegheny College and Arcadia University.
Donny Holl, a junior criminal justice major from Cranberry, Pa., has attended Mercyhurst University since 2011. Holl, 20, said he believed a large majority of Mercyhurst students have meal plans with Parkhurst Dining.
Meal plan options range from 105-225 swipes per semester, or unlimited swipes, Holl said. With three main food spots on campus – Egan Dining Hall, The Laker Inn and Coffee Bar – there is always a place to grab healthy and fresh food, Holl said.
Parkhurst Dining has been Mercyhurst’s dining management provider going on five years, according to an April 2009 Mercyhurst news release.
“The biggest change involves operating hours for the Egan Dining Hall,” said Joe Howard, Mercyhurst’s coordinator of student life. “Mercyhurst is switching from the “all-you-can-eat” approach to “anytime dining.”
This anytime dining means students who have full meal plans will be able to eat in the dining room any time they wish, from breakfast through late evening.
Holl likes Parkhurst Dining and the job they do at Mercyhurst. His only critique was for a bit more variety and a consistency in when certain foods are served. But, as long as students choose the proper meal plan, he sees no major problems, Holl said.
“The meal plans are very well put together,” Holl said. “The only time you would run out is if you’re dumb and are on a plan too small for your eating habits.”
Penn State Behrend employs its own food management service. Mike Knoll, a sophomore biology major and Erie native, has attended Behrend since 2011.
Knoll, 21, said Behrend operates on a monetary meal plan and has a certain allotment of funds to be able to spend on the level of meal plan. The steep prices and sometimes not-so-fresh food leave more to be desired, Knoll said.
“It costs me like $8-10 just to fill up,” Knoll said with aggravation in his voice. “I wish the food was cheaper and we had some healthier options. If you want to buy healthy, you will pay double.”
Although the prices are not too pleasing to Knoll, the customer service is. There is very good customer service, Knoll said. Besides the occasional grumpy student worker, the customer service, especially from the older workers, is always friendly.
With five meal locations on Behrend’s campus, Knoll believed 65 percent of students utilize meal plans to eat there.
What can Metz Culinary Management at Gannon learn from Parkhurst Dining at Mercyhurst and a self-owned food service at Behrend?
Implementing an unlimited meal swipe plan and anytime dining – similar to Mercyhurst’s Parkhurst food management service – could benefit Gannon students. Some athletes on Gannon’s campus would welcome this approach with open arms.
Nolan Woodward, a redshirt freshman basketball player at Gannon, is often hungry with only three meal swipes per day.
“Unlimited meal swipes,” Woodward questioned. “Now that would be awesome. Half the time I am conserving my meal swipes or waiting for the café to open.”
Anytime dining would also mean Woodward could walk into an always-open café and have a meal, however large or small. This plan would seemingly eliminate a lot of hungry students on Gannon’s campus. Make the price of unlimited meal swipes a little higher, but at least students won’t be hungry or limited in a choice of what to eat.
Metz Culinary Management has been with Gannon for nearly 20 years. Metz is looking to expand the company with plans for more growth down south, Mannarelli said. Maybe a little change of pace or policy upgrade will keep Gannon on Metz’s radar.
With hospitality and integrity as its core values, could Metz better meet students’ needs? A year-end company survey goes out to all Metz Culinary Management employees; let’s send one to the Gannon student body as well.