Warren Leeds


Warren Leeds


CEO and Founder | Dartcor Food Services

Industry
Hospitality/Food and Beverage

Location
New Jersey


Warren Leeds: How This F&B Entrepreneur is Spearheading the Future of In-Office Dining

Shortly after graduating from Cornell's School of Hotel Administration, Warren Leeds knew that he wanted to take everything he had learned to build a dynamic, hospitality-centric company. In October 1985, he opened Ome Gourmet Market & Cafe in Parsippany, New Jersey with a huge amount of enthusiasm and willingness to try out our recipes and ideas. Country clubs, corporate dining, off-premise catering, and restaurant opportunities followed. Thirty-four years later, he has evolved into Dartcor, the premier regional workplace dining company with 40 accounts throughout New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, ranging from a financial services firm with 300 traders to a pharmaceutical company with 1,400 employees.  
 Outside of Leeds’s responsibilities at Dartcor, he is a member of Young President's Organization (YPO) Big Apple Gold Chapter, an Advisory Board Member of Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at Cornell School of Hotel Administration, and an Advisory Board Member of Skillman School of Business at Seton Hall University.

What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19? 

My biggest business concern is to safeguard our guests and employees. We have had to reinvent how we serve, package and deliver food to our guests. For instance, we’ve leveraged our technology solution to provide guests a contactless dining experience. We’ve provided guests the ability to select their entire meal and from there we include all the necessary sustainable cutlery, napkins, condiments needed in one single handle bag for a quick seamless experience. 

Although 75% of our business stopped during the pandemic, amidst it all though, Dartcor was awarded the North American HQ of Teva Pharmaceuticals along with seven additional sites throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In addition, many prospective clients reached out to discuss potential solutions that could replace their traditional corporate café.

Dartcor allows employs to order fresh, easy, and contactless gourmet in-office dining.

The culture at Dartcor is very entrepreneurial, and this has allowed us to pivot quickly. We immediately identified technology solutions that enable us to offer contactless, safe, and cost-efficient alternatives for workplace dining, pantry and coffee service, and snacking. We began reopening suburban sites in July, and most clients located in urban environments are targeting after Labor Day to begin reopening their office.

We get asked a lot, “Why Dartcor over Postmates?” The answer is that most clients are prohibiting visitors into their buildings. Employees always have the option to bring food from home, but that being said, most do not. Postmates delivers food—purely transactional. Our team cares for our guest at a whole other level. We are hospitality professionals and prepare and serve incredibly delicious food. Beyond typical breakfast and lunch service, we’ve also found ways to use hospitality to help de-stress the return to work for our client’s employees with our welcome back totes and grocery pickup. 

In addition, leveraging Dartcor’s state-of-the-art HACCP-certified central kitchen is a tremendous asset that enables us to provide our clients with workplace dining options at a significantly lower cost. Some clients have opted to have the central kitchen produce the meals in the early stages rather than incur the expense of activating their full-service café. We set up a custom micro-site where the guest places their order, and we prepare and deliver the meals in refrigerated trucks to a predetermined location in the building. It’s a tremendous savings in terms of labor.

The company’s contactless delivery for offices.

What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation? 

In June, we rolled out our “Fresh Start” program, which addresses how we foresee workplaces shifting upon return from the pandemic lockdown. The program consists of a multi-pronged, customizable list of offerings including contactless ordering, pickup, meal and grocery delivery, employee welcome kit, and a mobile refreshment cart. So far, our clients have been extremely receptive to the new program and are looking forward to activating it at varying levels upon return to the office. 

Examples of meals from Dartcor.

How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?

The pandemic has accelerated the introduction of technology into every component of our business. Typically, our guests order or self-serve, then pay in person. Now they have the option to conveniently do so with a few clicks online from anywhere in the office. We’ve also added the ability to order from outposts around the office, so employees don’t need to avoid crowding with one pickup location and elevator use is then limited. With the elimination of the buffet, we also see an opportunity to reduce food waste and lower food costs. These shifts should be here to stay. 

All of these factors lead to less usage of front-of-house café areas. These areas can be totally repurposed and used for other amenities or more office space. We see developers and companies scaling back on the amount of space dedicated to their eateries. Our technology solutions are the best the industry has to offer and allow us to maintain the same level of service in a different format.  

The company’s coffee, beverage, and snack station can be customized for each client.

What have you learned from other difficult times in the past? 

Our industry is in the process of undergoing a complete shift. Safety and quality standards in the food and beverage industry have risen and will not return to as they were pre-pandemic for the foreseeable future. Dartcor is helping clients stay safe through its contactless mobile ordering and accepting deliveries on the loading dock so vendors are not entering the building. We have all employees adhere to rigorous safety protocols and we are working with our clients to increase the frequency of cleaning high-touch surfaces.

 It’s our responsibility to adapt and provide our clients with the assurance they need through the development of new processes and the implementation of new strategies, always keeping hospitality at the core of our work. 

Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime

 

Morning routine?
I kick off my days with a Peloton ride, followed by a cooldown while checking in on the vegetable garden. I then shower and head to the office where my workday begins.

Currently reading?
I recently finished The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger, and I read The New York Times and Wall Street Journal each morning. 

What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
We bike, golf, and—of course—dine together.

What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
I’m a big proponent of exercise, for both physical and mental health. I also spend as much time as possible family and friends.

Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
Villa d’Este in Lake Como.