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June 2012
Customized Dining by the Numbers
By Casey Jacobus

     Floyd D. Young Jr. learned to work hard picking cotton as a boy in Prairie View, Tex., a small town of about 4,000 located 90 miles north of Houston. In Prairie View, school was often delayed starting in the fall until the cotton crop was harvested.

     “Picking cotton was the hardest work I ever did,” says Young. “You’d pick all day and, if you were lucky, you’d have 300 lbs. and $1.50 at the end of the day.”

     Young was no stranger to hard work. In high school, he worked for $7 a week, two hours before school, two hours after school and 12 hours on Friday night at a commercial bakery. He learned a lot there about the basics of how a small company operates. He also learned the importance of going to work daily and being on time.

     After graduating high school, Young attended Prairie View A&M University, the second oldest public institution of higher education in Texas. The historically black university is also known as one of the nation’s top producers of African-American engineers, and has produced more African-American three-star generals than any other historically black university in the country.

     Young graduated with a degree in industrial education, and then apprenticed as the night baker at a Dallas hotel. Shortly thereafter, he accepted an offer from the Flanner House Community Center in Indianapolis, Ind., to start his career as their food service manager.

     There Young met Ida Edelen, who was on the staff of Flanner House as a social worker and her 5-year-old nephew Keith Haywood, who was enrolled in the child development center. Before long Young married Keith’s mother and Ida’s sister-in-law, Norma Edelen.

     During his years in Indianapolis, Young also worked at Eli Lilly Co., the global pharmaceutical giant headquartered there, and taught food services at Indiana State University. In 1969, he was recruited to serve as head of Johnson C. Smith University’s food services and he moved with his wife and stepson to Charlotte.

     “I thought I was in hog haven,” Young laughs. “I was earning a good salary and Charlotte was a great place to live. Of course, I knew nothing about the city before I got here and thought it was near the ocean. After I got here, I kept looking for the beach and the waves.”

     Soon after Young got to Charlotte, the food service company he came here to work for was sold. He went to work for a new company, Gourmet Services, now headquartered in Atlanta, for a short time and then, in 1982, struck out on his own as F.D.Y., Inc. (FDY).

     “I had seen the food industry from the highest to the lowest,” says Young. “I had learned what to do and what not do. I was determined to bring quality food and quality service to the Carolinas.”

 

Quality Food, Quality Service

     Today FDY is one of the largest minority-owned food service companies in America. Young started out 30 years ago with 30 employees; today, he has more than 300. He started with three clients; today he has 10 major clients.

     FDY’s original purpose was to meet the growing demand for quality food management and vending services in the Carolinas. FDY’s current services include all aspects of contract food services, from college and corporation cafeterias, to airports retail and franchises, to catered receptions and weddings.

     The company’s emphasis on quality, taste and presentation along with the professionalism of its associates has earned FDY the distinction of being among the finest food service operations in the Southeast. The company has also invested in and operates several retail franchises.

     “We believe that the best food service programs are those which are customized for each target group,” asserts Young.

     The Campus Dining Division is the foundation of FDY. Its clients include Johnson C. Smith University, along with partnerships at Bennett College for Women, Howard University, North Carolina A&T State University, and North Carolina Central University. The complexity of serving food year-round on today’s campuses to residential students, commuter students, faculty, staff, dignitaries and visitors presents the company with its biggest challenges and rewards.

     “When we started, we were mandated to supply three meals a day, seven days a week,” says Young. “Now everyone wants service like they get in the mall. We’re seeing new retail franchise concepts on campus, new growth and new ways of providing meals.”

     FDY’s campus dining food management staff works to keep abreast of the changing nutritional desires and needs of the student population. Menu upgrades are determined based on periodic surveys, evaluations and recommendations. FDY also works with institutions on facility planning, restoration and renovation projects. FDY’s experience and resources can help schools enhance their cafeterias, student centers and conference facilities.

     FDY is adding new concepts and franchise dining outlets to campuses and airports to accommodate customers with busy lifestyles. The addition of outlets like a Papa John’s Pizza at Johnson C. Smith University or a Bojangles at the Charlotte Airport add variety and increase participation at the campus establishments.

     “Achieving the perfect dining program is a never-ending journey,” states Young. “It is a journey that everyone at FDY will pursue with energy and passion to achieve the client’s desired results.”

 

Sustainable Choices

     FDY has also created a program called Sustain 365 to help its customers make healthy food choices. The program features menus and recipes that deliver on taste, while using ingredients and cooking techniques that promote a healthy nutritional lifestyle.

     The marketing strategy for Sustain 365 includes posting nutritional data at every serving counter with nutritional icons appearing on the menu sign to designate each healthy option. The company uses Sustain 365 shirts during service, maintains a nutritional data desk in the cafeteria, makes use of posters and table tents, promotes “Fry Free Thursdays” and creates special events around the Sustain 365 theme.

     Partnering with Johnson C. Smith University, Rowan Regional Hospital, Carolinas Medical Center, the American Dietetic Association, the Mayo Healthy Living Center and the American Heart Association helps to provide educational support materials and healthy lifestyle awareness resources. FDY has also initiated campus health workshops.

     “We strive constantly for new and better ways to improve our service,” says Young. “Our customers are the essence of our company. We listen to them continuously, anticipate their needs and go beyond their expectations.”

     Young has seen many changes to the food service industry during his career. The biggest change is a consolidation at the top. Aramark Corporation based in Philadelphia, Pa., Compass Group Americas Division in Charlotte, and Sodexho, Inc. out of Gaithersburg, Md., are the behemoths.

     “We’re in competition now with megabuck companies, and to be competitive,” asserts Young, “you need to invest capital. But you need to be very careful how you invest those dollars.”

     FDY has chosen to diversify its retail services by partnering with another Charlotte-based company, Bojangles. Bojangles was founded in 1977 in Charlotte and has grown into a true destination restaurant throughout the Carolinas and beyond. In 2008, FDY opened a Bojangles franchise at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

     With the airport Bojangles’ serving an average 1,250 meals a day, FDY has gone on to open Bojangles franchises at Clemson and, most recently, Union Station in Washington, D.C. FDY has also partnered with the HMSHost in operating a Burger King at the Norfolk Airport in Virginia.

     While the company was founded on its experience and knowledge of food management service to colleges, universities and corporations, it has become more diversified over the past 30 years.

     Its partnership with Bojangles is one strategy; another is its expansion in vending services. In 1987, it acquired the food management contract at the Rocky Mount Engine Company (now known as Cummins) plant in Whitaker, N.C. FDY serves more than 2,200 people in the company’s cafeteria and services 40 clusters of vending machines throughout the plant.

     “While FDY’s business is currently a mix of food service contract and retail, the retail side is growing,” reports Young. “That’s where the market is going—more and more retail and franchise restaurant opportunities.”

 

Energy and Passion

     When Young launched FDY in 1982, one of his goals was to enhance the quality of life for others by offering gainful employment opportunities and raising the bar for minorities in the food service industry.

     “I wanted to bring quality to my employees’ lives. I came from humble beginnings and as I’ve grown and come along, I’ve wanted to help them come along as well. Health care, benefits and competitive wages are important to me and to them.”

     From the beginning, Young has been helped by the support and experience of his wife, Norma, serving as vice president and advisor in the areas of strategic planning, client satisfaction, employee relations, policies and procedures, financial accountability and company stability. Her mission is to strengthen the organization by creating a warm and inviting workplace environment, responsible business practices and customer satisfaction.

     Young’s stepson, Keith Haywood, has also been a substantial part of FDY since 1983. After graduating from North Carolina Central University in 1977 with a major in business administration and marketing, Haywood joined Gourmet Services, Inc, and clerked with the company’s vice president for operations and financial affairs.

     For the past 26 years, Haywood has been affiliated with FDY. He has managed the Banquet and Catering Division with clients that include the North Carolina Furniture Market, National Basketball Association, NCAA Final Four Tournament, New Heritage USA Resort, NBC 24 Hour News Network, ACC Tournament, Nations Bank (Bank of America), and Amway.

     Haywood has launched two food service management companies and served as a food service specialist for the Kellogg’s/Fearn International, Le Gout Foods subsidiary. Additionally, he has chaired the Charlotte Convention and Visitors Bureau and been active in the minority business community and small business development initiatives.

     Now serving as vice president of sales and marketing, Haywood is the company’s point person for business development initiatives, partnerships and new ventures. His other areas of work have included food service management, catering and special events, facility design, construction, and brand development work, including retail and franchise development. He also provides valuable leadership in the Company’s annual growth.

     “I chose the right place,the right people and the right time to start this company,” says Young. “I had the insights and the experience to develop it. However the only way to stay ahead year after year is to develop a great team. Thankfully, we’ve been able to do that as well.”

     Young’s own role in the company has evolved into providing stability and guidance for his team. He visits clients and makes sure they are happy. He makes sure the company is staying on track and he makes sure the finances are flowing in the right direction.

     “I’m constantly trying to figure out ways to grow the business,” Young laughs. “Food management is a service business, which means business is good as long as you do good work. It also means you have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. We always want to offer a quality dining experience at any FDY operation or special event.”

Casey Jacobus is a Lake Norman-based freelance writer.
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