This Isn’t Your Typical Food DRIVE

By: Brian Smith
Aug 12, 2016 12:30 PM ET

This blog originally appeared in

At Sodexo, we have been recognized and awarded for our efforts to end childhood hunger through the Stop Hunger Foundation. It is customary to see decorated cardboard boxes around the office collecting donations or volunteer teams organizing food drives. Three years ago, my team and I embarked on a drive of our own—working with our culinary group in building a highly integrated technology platform for our foodservice operations that truly transforms the way we go to market and execute activities at our food operations – both from a business process and technology perspective.  These changes demonstrate Sodexo’s commitment to Quality of Life values both for our unit staff and for our consumers.  

The DRIVE platform saves time and effort for our unit operators by delivering world class culinary offerings through a standardized food production system including recipes, menus and items mapped for purchasing including central kitchen and inventory management in one easy to use, easy to understand system that simplifies our back of house processes.  The new system creates more time for our operators to focus on the most important aspect of our business – focusing on our clients and delighting our consumers.

Large national restaurants already use these types of platforms. That’s why the meal you eat at a chain restaurant in New York tastes the same as the one you ate in California. But within our industry, DRIVE is a differentiator for Sodexo.  Our recipe profiles and supply chain are significantly more complex than the chain restaurants.  Sodexo’s DRIVE platform is a unique, best-in-class system that optimizes our operations, computes recipe nutrition, reduces food waste and is an important element to meet the needs of today’s rapidly changing consumer tastes.

A key goal of the DRIVE project was to streamline our foodservice business and improve the life of our operators. With different systems for ordering, food production, menu management and recipes, our unit operations managers were spending too much time completing repetitive back office tasks, leaving less time to interact with our clients and customers.  DRIVE offers an extremely sophisticated IT platform that integrates recipe, menu management and food production to our master data, our supply chain/procurement tools and financial systems.

Our final DRIVE product delivered a simplified, consistent business process, user-friendly technology and true visibility into operational performance.  Now our culinary team can input specific menus and recipes tailored to client and customer preferences.  Recipes are vetted through extensive research with our consumers.  Once a recipe makes it into DRIVE, the unit operator can rest assured that they have the right recipe to delight consumers with the right ingredients mapped to local suppliers to ensure a seamless operator experience.  Less time on behind the scenes work – more time to focus on our customers and improving the customer experience.

The DRIVE project significantly improves our speed to market and ability to implement new consumer offers more quickly which improves customer satisfaction.  The ability to create and change recipes and menus and make them available to operations quickly is a core feature of DRIVE.  Sodexo’s culinary team ensures that recipes appeal to consumer demand and comply with nutritional regulations in DRIVE.

Our first successful DRIVE platform pilot has just completed, with two additional sites to be launched in September. Over the coming year, we expect to implement DRIVE at 118 additional sites. Of course, decorated cardboard collection boxes are still sure to appear at all of the sites from time to time. After all, that other type of food drive is pretty important, too.

Brian Smith is Vice President of Information Systems & Technology for Sodexo North America.