Is Great Food Critical to Great Company Culture?


In the video below we hear from Fedele Bauccio, founder and CEO of Bon Appetit Management. His company has built its reputation on locally sourced, seasonal, healthy foods, and is actively involved in sustainability issues affecting every aspect of the food industry.

We discuss companies and other CEOs that have influenced Bauccio's own approach to business and leadership. He is energized by the youthfulness and innovation of companies like Google and Twitter, and admires groundbreaking CEOs such as Mackey and Schultz.

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Isaac Pino: OK, that basically wraps it up. I really appreciate you answering my questions, but now our audience I'm sure has some thoughts on what they'd like to ask you.

Fedele Bauccio: David?

David Gardner: Fedele, thank you very much for coming here today; outstanding. I want to point out that it was a Motley Fool member in fact -- Kent Buell, who works for Bon Appetit -- who first mentioned you and how well your story fits with what we love in business.

I want to shout out to -- his screen name is poinkie on The Motley Fool, but Kent, obviously one of the people, many of them, who work for you who love what you do.

Bauccio: Yeah, Kent is in Minneapolis, and does a great job for us, yes.

David: He's very proud to work for your company.

You fit a mold -- there are many ways to lead, many different types of corporate leaders, and part of what we love about the business world is its motley nature.

If I were to fit you into my own pattern recognition of CEOs that I love, you fit the "I have a lover's quarrel with what's going on in this world, and I think I can top, and let's try this as a business. I think I can improve the lives of consumers, and also my industry."

I think of somebody like Arkadi Kuhlmann. I don't know if you've ever met him or seen him, but he started ING Direct . Arkadi spoke here a few years ago. It's a very similar thing.

That "lover's quarrel" phrase is from Robert Frost, who said, "I have a lover's quarrel with the world." I love those companies. I'm very sorry that I can't have a direct play on Bon Appetit. I can't buy your stock directly.

Maybe we'll talk about that, but I just wanted to ask you. I have 10 different questions. I'm going to ask several during lunch, but just for this venue I wanted to ask you, are there any other corporate leaders that you'd like to call out as somebody that you admire, that you've learned from?

And/or, take this other one if you like as well. By dint of working within other businesses, are you intentional at all about studying them, learning from them and pulling some of their DNA, and have they affected your culture over the course of time?

Bauccio: Let me answer that second one first.

I think the more we work with Google, the more innovative we become, and the thinking changes. I think Google is an incredible innovative company that is not afraid to risk. They're off the charts at times, but they care a great deal about the culture of that company.

They have caused us to rethink, if I can, the word -- let me use this word -- the "uncafeteria" or the way we feed people, and how does food create innovative thinking in a company?

My head starts to think about all kinds of different things that I'd never thought of before. But Google is a good example of that.

We're very, very lucky. We work with lots of young people that are very, very smart and are not afraid to take risks. Twitter is one of them. I love going to Twitter's headquarters and just talking to the employees. It energizes me and makes me think about, it's not just food. It's a whole experience. It's a whole bringing together community. It's a way to create culture. There's all kinds of things that food can do.

That's my answer to that.

I think what John Mackey has done at Whole Foods has been unbelievable. He took a very mature industry also, and went the other way, and took a huge risk. He's built a huge company, and a very good company, because of that. There's lots of companies that have done that, that I really feel good about.

I think that Howard Schultz at Starbucks came in and came back to the company, and revitalized it to create more of a beverage company than just a coffee company, and has done some really terrific things.

I can think of Square, this new little app that Starbucks invested in, and what they're doing. Every time I go to a Starbucks now, somebody's put a phone there. There's all kinds of wonderful, young, good companies out there now, doing great stuff, making our lives easier. I think that's terrific.

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Isaac Pino, CPA, owns shares of Google. The Motley Fool recommends Google, Starbucks, and Whole Foods Market. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Starbucks, and Whole Foods Market. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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