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Black Bean Soup

With winter in full force, nothing is more comforting and restorative on a cold day than a big bowl of soup. Check out Chef Katrina Schonberg-Hamar’s delicious Black Bean Soup recipe sure to soothe you from the inside out!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried black beans, sorted and rinsed
  • 4 thick cut slices of bacon
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1-2 serrano peppers, minced (remove seeds for a milder soup)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6-8 cups chicken stock
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice

To serve: Cilantro leaves, queso fresco, sour cream, diced avocado, and/or Mexican hot sauce (like Cholula)

Directions

  1. Soak the beans in water to cover for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  2. In a large pressure cooker (or if you don’t have one, use a large Dutch oven) cook the bacon over medium heat until rendered and crispy. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels, then chop into small pieces.
  3. Add the onion, carrot, and celery to the pot with the bacon fat, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium high and sauté until the onions are translucent and begin to soften, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, serrano peppers, and spices. Cook for 1-2 minutes until everything is very fragrant.
  4. Drain the soaked beans, put them in the pot along with the chicken broth, canned tomatoes, and bacon. Sprinkle a little more salt in the pot, stir to combine, and put the lid on the pressure cooker, bring to high pressure, and cook for 30 minutes after pressurized. (If using a Dutch oven, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally until beans are tender.)
  5. Remove from heat and allow the pressure to release naturally, this will take about 20 minutes. Check the beans for tenderness (simmer until tender if they are not) and season to taste with salt (it will need a lot of salt if you used unsalted broth).
  6. Transfer 4-6 cups of soup to a blender, making sure not to fill the blender more than 2/3 full. Be sure to vent the lid to prevent a dangerous explosion of hot soup, and blend until very smooth.
  7. Add the puréed soup back to the pot, add the cilantro and lime juice, stir well. Taste the soup and adjust the salt as needed. Ladle into bowls and top with cilantro leaves, queso fresco, sour cream, diced avocado, and/or Mexican hot sauce such as Cholula.

Tips

A small amount of bacon is added for flavor, and a homemade chicken stock was used, but you can easily omit the bacon and use vegetable stock for a vegan version. If you do, a roasted vegetable stock made with some dried mushrooms is recommended for the deepest umami flavor.

Gingerbread Muffins with Vanilla Bean Glaze

Gingerbread muffins with vanilla bean glaze

Finish off your winter holiday baking with the delicious seasonal flavors in Chef Emily Gingery’s Gingerbread Muffins with Vanilla Bean Glaze. With six easy steps and tons of flavor, this recipe will certainly start your morning off right. 

Ingredients

Gingerbread Muffins

  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1 cup cold water

Vanilla Bean Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard muffin tin with muffin cups, coat with nonstick baking spray.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl, then whisk together. Set aside.
  3. Place butter and sugar in a bowl and then beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, beating each addition, then add molasses. Scrape down the sides as needed and beat until well mixed. 
  4. Carefully add half of the dry ingredients to the bowl, then combine slowly. Add remaining dry ingredients, scrape down the side, and beat until thoroughly mixed. With the mixer on low, add the cold water. Continue to beat for 2 minutes, or until mixture is very smooth.
  5. Divide batter evenly between muffin cups, about 3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the muffin comes out clean. Let muffins cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  6. While muffins are cooling, make vanilla bean glaze. Combine confectioners’ sugar, vanilla bean powder, and milk in a small bowl. Whisk, adding in a little more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Drizzle glaze on top of muffins. 

Road Warriors Tackle Recruiting During Pandemic

We’d like to thank our “Road Warriors”, Gustavo Orozco and Kelsey Jeffords, for the tireless commitment to their jobs and overall team success during the midst of a global pandemic. When our clients began to reopen their doors, Gustavo and Kelsey stepped up to support our Talent Acquisition group, putting their personal lives on hold to travel to multiple clients nationwide and deliver critical recruiting support at a pivotal time for TSC. With their assistance, we’ve been able to rehire nearly 2,000 associates. We recently caught up with our two “Road Warriors” on their journey providing assistance for the Talent Acquisition team throughout the country.

Female recruiter, Kelsey Jeffords and male recruiter, Gustavo Orozco.

How long have you been with The Service Companies?

Kelsey: I’ve been with the company in a staffing operations role since January 2014.

Gustavo: I’ve been with TSC since March 2018 and have always been involved in the company’s staffing operations.

What is your current role or what is the focus of your role?

Kelsey: Talent Acquisition. I recruit a variety of positions for our casino hotel clients in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Gustavo: Right before the pandemic I was a Strategic Operations Manager. In June I became a member of the Talent Acquisition team, traveling to and recruiting hospitality staff in Connecticut, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco, South Lake Tahoe, and Reno.

What traits does a Road Warrior need to have? 

Kelsey: A Road Warrior should be willing to live life on the road, have strong work ethic, dedication, and lots of energy!

Gustavo: A willingness to travel frequently and the ability to efficiently perform your role from any location (airport, coffee shop, hotel lobby, car, etc…)

What’s been your biggest accomplishment or the most rewarding aspect of your new role?

Kelsey: The most rewarding part of this job is to be able to give others an opportunity to work. It’s always an accomplishment when the applicants that are hired are happy and able to provide for themselves and their families.

Gustavo: My biggest accomplishments have been seeing how my work impacts different parts of the nation. Establishing a better relationship in person with coworkers who I had only met through video before has been very rewarding. 

Any tips for traveling during COVID/a pandemic? 

Kelsey: Make sure to always wear your mask, especially when dealing with different people on a day-to-day basis. 

Gustavo: Enjoy the outdoors. If you’re traveling to a new place, keep your distance and stay safe. Being outdoors is a convenient way to do so.  I normally like to jog/hike outdoors when I visit a new city. 

Gustavo and Kelsey played critical roles in managing our talent pipeline with their recruiting efforts during one of TSC’s, and the nation’s, most unprecedented times. The dedication and teamwork that these two team members have displayed over the last 6 months is nothing short of outstanding.

Interested in joining our team? You can learn more about the various positions available at The Service Companies, including recruiting, operations, and business development positions, here.

Potato Hash with Autumn Vegetables

Still looking for the perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving celebration? Try Chef Katrina Schonberg-Hamar’s delicious Potato Hash with Autumn Vegetables recipe – sure to satisfy even the most discerning guest. Katrina is a chef at one of our large technology clients’ corporate cafeterias in Seattle and is no stranger to creating delectable & versatile dishes. Whether it’s served for a Thanksgiving brunch or a traditional dinner side, this hash is full of comfort and makes the most of seasonal produce!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound potatoes (new potatoes or fingerling)
  • 1 pound Brussel sprouts
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded & diced into 1/4″ pieces
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions

1. Preheat an oven to 425° F with racks in the top and bottom third. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Toss the potatoes in a generous drizzle of olive oil, plus plenty of salt & pepper. Spread out in an even layer on one of the baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes.

2. Toss the Brussels sprouts in a generous drizzle of olive oil, plus salt and pepper. Spread them out evenly on the other sheet pan. Put the Brussels sprouts in the oven.

3. Toss the butternut squash in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Take out the potatoes and stir them around. Then add the butternut squash to the same sheet pan, taking care not to crowd it. Roast until the vegetables are tender. If one of the sheet pans is cooking faster than the other, take it out. When everything is done, toss all the veggies together. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.

Tips and Suggestions

  • It’s best to roast the vegetables until they are tender on the inside, brown & slightly crispy on the outside, which is about 15-25 minutes in a hot (425° F) oven.
  • You can add whole cloves of garlic or chopped toasted nuts like hazelnuts with the potatoes. Take care not to burn them.
  • Toss in any spices you like with the veggies such as paprika or za’atar for added flavor or after cooking, toss everything with a sweet aged balsamic.

Building System Performance Begins with a Robust Maintenance Program

Periodic inspection programs are a key component of the maintenance systems embraced at The Service Companies (TSC). Inspecting operating equipment and control systems periodically is key to longevity and reliability for any mechanical system associated with tenant comfort and property efficiency. As one of the largest investments an owner makes in a facility, tenant comfort systems are a critical component in customer satisfaction. TSC embraces and implements a program custom-designed for each of our client’s unique needs.

Our goal is to identify and correct small problems before they become critical issues affecting the quiet enjoyment of the space our clients’ tenants or clients are entitled to. We aim to be in front of the problem – always – which enables our clients to avoid operational interruptions or tenant discomfort and ensure a smooth and problem-free delivery.

Chief engineer performing preventive maintenance procedures

We achieve this with our preventive maintenance (PM) protocols, planned maintenance and condition based maintenance procedures, which anticipate the needs of the operating equipment and identify issues before they can adversely affect the normal delivery of comfort services at any of our clients’ properties. Included in our maintenance and inspection procedures are preventive maintenance tasks at specified periods which may include, but are not limited to oil changes, lubrication, minor adjustments, filter changes, motor overhauls, control calibrations, etc. Results are then documented in a formal maintenance program so we can track and forecast equipment deterioration and machinery failure before they occur.

In addition to ensuring reliability, extending equipment life cycles, reducing/eliminating unplanned breakdowns and ensuring overall tenant comfort, our PM program maximizes operational savings for our clients.

Our programs are designed around the avoidance of unplanned breakdowns and repairs whenever possible and to maintain our client’s equipment in optimum operating condition. Our custom programs include periodic non-destructive tests, measurements, adjustments, parts replacement and cleaning.

To learn how we may be able to improve the overall performance of your mechanical systems, contact our engineering experts today.

Mushroom Risotto

Getting ready for your holiday gatherings may seem a little different this year, but one thing will remain the same – delicious, comfort food. Want to switch up your regular side dish? Try this savory Mushroom Risotto recipe from Chef Brian Lorente. Brian is a chef at the corporate cafeteria of one of our large technology clients in Seattle and is always whipping up something tasty!

Ingredients

  • 8 oz chef’s mix gourmet mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 6 cups chicken stock, broth, or bouillon
  • 2 tbsp cold butter
  • 3/4 cups parmesan cheese
  • Parsley for garnish
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions

1. Cut any large mushroom chunks from chef’s mix into slightly smaller pieces.

2. Heat a tablespoon of oil & sauté mushrooms for about 3 minutes until soft. Remove from pan, reserve for later.

3. Heat another tablespoon of oil in the same pan, sauté shallots & garlic for about 2 minutes. Add rice, incorporate with olive oil to coat. Lightly toast the rice for about 3 minutes.

4. Deglaze the pan with white wine, be sure to scrape up any residue from the bottom and incorporate it into the mixture.

5. When the wine has absorbed into the rice, add 1/2 cup of chicken broth at a time while stirring. When each ladle of broth looks like it is almost absorbed, add another half cup & stir. Repeat this process for 20 to 25 minutes until rice is al dente but not mushy. You may not use all of the broth. Stir constantly.

6. There should be a little bit of liquid left in the rice when it is ready to finish. The mixture should be able to move in the pan, but should not be runny, nor thick and gloppy. Move the pan off of the heat & swirl in the cold butter, then mix in the parmesan. Reincorporate the mushrooms, adjust for salt & pepper if necessary.

7. Serve immediately. Garnish with fresh, chopped parsley. Enjoy!

Relearning Service Standards Post Pandemic

We are thrilled to hear reports of many clients and industry friends opening their doors again.  While safety is of critical importance when returning to work post pandemic, as a company we have created a mandatory virtual reactivation and orientation for all associates returning to work. This covers many safety protocols as outlined by the CDC and refresher training for PPE and chemical usage. 

We understand in addition to safety training there is an essential need for refreshing service standards when it comes to customer and employee interactions. Many standards that have been ingrained and consistently practiced throughout the hospitality industry over the years look different today. For example, having meaningful interactions while remaining distant, expressing an emotional connection from behind a face covering and the hospitality zone known as “10 & 5” moving to “10 & 6”. 

Since our return to the workplace, we found some helpful tips for managers and team members to adjust to necessary changes and navigate comfortably within our crowded facilities. 

  1. Keep Smiling! Yes we can still read facial expressions while under that mask. This has been a fun ice breaker for the team.
  1. Associates along with some customers are trying to get used to adjustments for basic interactions, like escorting a guest to a specific location. Even while wearing a face covering we still must provide others appropriate physical space and always keeping our face covering intact, so speak more loudly and clearly while maintaining a safe distance. 
  2. Same as before, eye contact and a nod is important to let a guest or coworker know you are listening intently and understand their message. 
  3. Something as simple as delivering a guest request could feel quite awkward with new safety measures.  While some properties have procedures in place to deliver as far as the door, others may require attendants to enter a guest room.  Whatever the standard, ensure your employees are comfortable and have opportunities to practice each process.
  4. As many in the industry are navigating through this new normal it is important to take a regular pulse on how our employees are doing and feeling. Be sure they know how to escalate a request where they may not fully understand. When in doubt have a manager or office staff follow up to ensure your employees and customers have resources along the way.

It is obvious that nonverbal communication is more important now than ever.  Continue to role-play scenarios during your daily briefings.  The ultimate goal is having an empowered team, well-versed and comfortable engaging with one another, always creating a warm and hospitable environment.

people wearing masks sitting at desks with arms raised

We would love to hear how you have changed service standards within your properties and facilities. Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Safely and Effectively Managing Chemicals Within a Public Facility

Many people have become much more aware of cleaning chemicals, disinfectants and cleaning processes these days. Previously the price point or a fresh scent may have intrigued your interest though now you may realize other chemical factors are so critical in disease prevention in the workplace and at home. 

During my time in the hospitality industry I have been able to find great ways to effectively manage chemical processes and procedures. Here are some practices that hopefully can assist within your facility, home office and everyday housecleaning. 

Smiling hotel cleaner using cleaning cloth to clean air conditioning unit

1. Have a strict policy in place on what chemicals are allowed within your facility. This begins by collaborating with your management, front line operators, procurement staff and vendors.  The majority of time your hotel and facility managers have the knowledge needed to make smart choices based on hands-on experience, as well as guest and client feedback.  Once you have established chemical products, clearly communicate this information with all associates handling them at any given time. A good practice is to post approved cleaning chemicals including, areas of application, manufacturer’s instructions, safety tips and PPE needed for each. 

In addition, read the fine print of your vendor agreements to ensure there are absolutely no chemical substitutions. If there are delays for any reason, they must obtain written approval before sending anything else.  Also, have your receiving and storeroom attendants well-informed on carefully verifying incoming deliveries.

2. Test various products before making a decision and exercise this process when considering a product change. New formulations are coming out all the time and I anticipate this will be happening more often moving forward. As a start, the Environmental Protection Agency has a registered product listing that meet various virus claims. This list is very fluid so continue to monitor updates. For those in the hospitality industry, our chemical vendor partners should have the most up-to-date resources for their product line. Continue to meet with them on a regular basis to find the best fit for your property’s needs.

3. Be a smart shopper looking at every factor impacting your overall labor cost.  Not every spray bottle is created equal. For example, comparisons should take into account everything from first application of the chemical to the finished result. We hear quite a bit about contact “dwell” time.  Associates must understand how long the particular chemical in use must stay wet to be effective, the proper “kill time”, and that it is not a quick spray and wipe. Evaluate and equate what timing looks like as well as other factors to account for such as; safety and environmental considerations to be aware of, required specialized training and PPE, bottles, supplies and mode of delivery.  

4. Along with finding the right chemical, thorough associate training must be conducted before anyone works independently. At times labeling is very similar if buying from the same manufacturer so it is important to retrain all staff during any chemical change period to review specific manufacturer directions and changes in PPE. This is a time when having the right chemical vendor partner that supports the training process is important

Man conducting chemical training

5. Another important tip is checking accuracy of dilutions. Many times facilities prefer concentrated options versus ready-to-use bottles which can reduce costs for yourself and business partners. I am an advocate as well though always train property managers to never put chemistry in the hands of our associates. No matter how skilled and experienced in handling cleaning chemicals, manual pours and mixing is not an option.  It is important to install dispensing stations wherever possible keeping dilutions at a safe and effective level. Ideally your chemical vendor will visit on a regular basis to verify everything is mixing and working as efficiently as possible, keeping your facility in pristine condition. 

Difficult circumstances, like those we are all currently experiencing, can provide an opportunity for a company’s leaders to take a step back, sharpen their skills and return with a higher quality and safer approach to products and services within their organization. If you have any tips of your own, share them in the comments section below.

Project Ideas for Your Engineering Teams During the Pandemic

With many public facilities closed or open on a reduced schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic, the limited foot traffic and isolation period provide an opportunity for engineering and facilities teams to work on back of house and certain common area projects that normally require planning and scheduling due to tenant traffic. Our engineering team serving commercial and residential properties in Southern California has been doing just this. While these projects minimize our employees’ exposure to common area spaces, tenants and guests of the building, they are crucial to our engineering team’s role: protecting our client’s assets and overseeing the mechanical systems during operating hours.

Our Engineering Services team in Southern California compiled a list of projects that your engineering or facility teams can address during the next few weeks or months:

  • Detail the onsite fire pump room and equipment
  • Roof and roof drain cleaning
  • AHU plenum and duct cleaning
  • Coil sterilization
  • Ladder and tool inventory updates
  • Curb painting
  • Parking areas maintenance
  • Generator cleaning and painting
  • Address stairwells and certain common areas that typically require planning and scheduling

How are your engineering or facilities teams addressing your assets and projects during this unprecedented time? Leave a comment below.

Staying close to associates during the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 has created an unprecedented and difficult situation for people around the world. With so much uncertainty around the virus and its effects on our lives, we believe that communicating with our team on various levels is key to keeping them safe, healthy and well-informed. With a team of over 8,000 employees located across the country, it is of paramount importance to our leadership team that we are regularly communicating with our employees on how to stay healthy, how we are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and what that means for our operations. How can other service providers or hospitality companies ensure they are reaching their employees with important information? Here are a few of the ways we have used existing communication platforms to effectively communicate with our employees during this difficult time:

  1. Mass Texting – The majority of our employee base are hourly housekeeping, stewarding, EVS and food & beverage associates who are dependent on text messages instead of email communication. Employing mass text messages, supplemented by with email communications, has been one of the most effective ways for us to communicate our updates and pandemic response across our company.
A screenshot of a cell phone

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  • SHINE on Shift – We developed our weekly SHINE on Shift communication in 2017 to easily and effectively communicate important information to our teams in the field. Our SHINE on Shift includes important topics such as our mandatory training topics, pre-shift calendar, benefits information, best practices, department updates and safety information. During this pandemic, we have added additional information around COVID-19: our pandemic response plan, CDC recommendations on preventing the spread of COVID-19, and other essential COVID-19-related information for our managers to communicate at their properties or facilities. Here is a snapshot of our SHINE on Shift from March 13th.
  • Mandatory Webinars – Our Operations and Safety leaders have been hosting daily webinars for our Supervisors and Managers at our hotels, casinos and resorts. The goal of these webinars is to keep our leaders in the field informed as well as listen and respond to their questions and concerns.
  • Dedicated Safety Site – Our Safety team expanded their safety-dedicated website to include a section on COVID-19. People within our organization can access the site at any time to review coronavirus-specific FAQs, guides, our company’s response, best practices, and CDC and OSHA recommendations/guidance.

How has your company ensured communication is reaching your team? Leave a comment below.

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