A 30-plus year veteran of the foodservice industry, Mark Freeman is senior manager of employee services for Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Wash., where he oversees dining service which conducts 50,000-plus transactions per day. Since assuming this role in 2005, Freeman has instituted a campus-wide recycling and composting program as well as a major software upgrade, swapped the disposables used for on-site dining and catering with a more eco-friendly, biodegradable product, and opened up online forums where Microsoft employees could offer feedback, a move that has dramatically improved customer satisfaction. He’s also helped upgrade the quality of all beverages and meals served, including at kiosks and retail outlets. Prior to Microsoft, Freeman has worked for Saga, a contract feeder, and most recently as a consultant for Porter Consulting.
FE&S: What aspect of your career gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
Mark Freeman: Where I’m at right now is trying to stay connected to the industry, but also give back in a volunteer type of way. I’m on the board of the community college I mentioned earlier, and I’m also active in SFM (Society for Foodservice Management) – I serve on the board as treasurer.
FE&S: What type of charitable activities are you involved in?
Mark Freeman: Other than serving as a board as mentioned, once in a while, I’ll participate in a food drive, and my wife and I are really active in WorldVision, another nonprofit where my daughter works.
FE&S: If you were not working in foodservice, what would you be doing?
Mark Freeman: I’m a sailor so I would be sailing in some warm climate somewhere. I am from Seattle and it rains here a lot. I spent some time sailing in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean so that’s what I’d be doing. Get a big boat and some sun.
FE&S: How did you get into sailing?
Mark Freeman: Seattle is the mecca for sailing and there are great opportunities around Puget Sound so it was the natural thing to do. My wife and I joined a sailing co-op and as part of that went through U.S. sailing training. We earned how to sail and do it quite a bit. This club charters boats for sailing around the world. We sailed the Greek Isles for a while. A month ago we got back from Belize where we chartered a boat and went out into the Caribbean.
FE&S: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in the foodservice industry?
Mark Freeman: It’s the actual public that’s always challenging. It can be fun and not so fun, but it seems like there’s always an excitement to it because you never know what people are going to say or do.
FE&S: Finish this sentence: Nobody knows I...
Mark Freeman: I actually weave pine needle baskets (Freeman laughs) – well I don’t do it under water. I got into it when I bought a package early on for my wife out of the blue at a craft store, but she wasn’t too excited about it so I ended up picking it up and loved it. On my days off I like to watch football and weave baskets (laughs again). It’s kind of funny, but it’s really therapeutic. It lets me work with my hands and frees my mind from work and escape for a bit.
FE&S: When traveling for business, what is one of your favorite past times?
Mark Freeman: I like to eat at local restaurants, not at chains or the big hotels when I’m traveling. I like to get out and experience the local fare - sometimes you bump into some scary things - but more often than not it’s much more interesting and exciting.
FE&S: Knowing what you now know, would you still pursue a career in foodservice?
Mark Freeman: I’ve enjoyed going through the ranks – I’ve worked in corporate foodservice, colleges and universities, and also in restaurants. I’ve had a great time.
Click here to read part one of the interview with Mark Freeman.