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In Our Opinion — June 2012

Providing a Taste of Home

The levels of stress associated with daily military life cannot be quantified. At the same time, the role that military food and beverage (F&B) operations play in helping mitigate the stress level of warfighters and their families is invaluable.

As you know, military personnel are constantly on the go, moving from base to base, Stateside and abroad, with their families and without. This constant relocation takes an emotional toll, especially when loved ones are separated for months at a time due to deployments.

As a result, anything that provides servicemen and women and their dependents with a taste of home not only offers respite from their hectic lives, but also serves as a tremendous morale booster.

The term “taste of home” can mean many things. Those of you who are food and beverage directors can directly relate to the expression because your unique position as operators on military bases throughout the world affords daily interaction with warfighters and their families.

Providing food service on a military base, whether it is funded with nonappropriated or appropriated dollars, covers a gamut of operations. Military clubs, snack bars, sports bars, theme operations, branded concepts, name-brand fast food, quick-service restaurants and casual dining are just a sampling of F&B operations on the nonappropriated-fund (NAF) side of the house.

On the appropriated side, dining facilities and mess halls also serve as critical quality-of- life components in the daily lives of military personnel in all branches of service.

Since food is a staple that military personnel need to get through each pressure-filled day, offering F&B options that keep service members on base not only provides a convenience factor for them but, especially in the case of NAF food and beverage operations, also keeps the dollars in house.

The theme for next month's Armed Forces Food and Beverage Workshop in San Antonio, Texas, is “Nutrition ... Fueling Performance and Profits.” With the Department of Defense (DoD) on a campaign to improve nutrition standards across the entire military in order to encourage service members to make better nutritional choices, offering more healthy options on menus has come to the forefront.

Sure, hamburgers, hotdogs and French fries will continue to be mainstays on menus. Balancing those items with more healthy choices has been encouraged by DoD, hopefully resulting in increased foot traffic in your F&B operations.

Increasing profits relies upon how many times patrons enjoy a meal in facilities on base, which depends on the customer service, menu variety, décor and marketing, among other factors, that you as F&B personnel provide to get them to keep coming back.

On-base food and beverage operations are constantly evolving, and with each new concept opening, such as the two quick-service restaurants at NAF Atsugi, Japan, that we highlight in this issue (page 38), more options become available that offer that taste of home to soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.

It is the Rickenbacker's in the lobby of an Air Force lodging facility that “proudly serves” coffee and breakfast food items to give airmen the morning pick-me-up they need. It is the Strike Zone that provides hungry Army bowlers with the standard fare of burgers, Philly cheesesteaks and hotdogs. It is the familiar sandwich shop that delivers a little slice of home with the variety of subs on the menu. It is the name-brand grill that offers a sit-down casual dining experience for military patrons. It is the brew pub that fosters camaraderie among colleagues who relax with an alcoholic beverage or two after a day of training.

Regardless of the type of F&B facilities available on base, they all have one common goal: to provide service members and their families with a “taste” of what they would enjoy if they were all safely “home” together.