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44 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • APRIL 2017 Zero Waste Certification from the U.S. Zero Waste Busi- ness Council in 2016. It was the first technology company to achieve that benchmark. As the dining program has continued to evolve, so has Freeman's big-picture thinking and his focus on providing a program that's not only sustainability focused but health and wellness driven, as well. The infused water program, for instance, eliminates a lot of waste by cutting down on bottled water usage. It also speaks to Freeman's goal of making it easy and appealing for employees to access healthy choices. CLOSE CONNECTIONS Much of what Freeman has accomplished has been driven by his passion for staying closely connected to his cus- tomer base and understanding their needs and wants. That customer base, often thought of in a monolithic way as sim- ply Millennials, is actually very diverse, he says. But they do share common interests when it comes to food, and striv- ing to meet their expectations continually takes him down new paths. "The young people here are pretty cool, innovative and smart. As an old guy, they keep me young," Freeman says. "They challenge me, encourage me and help me, and there's so much innova- tion going on around here that you really are nourished in a creative way by that environ- ment. As for food, Millennials are demanding. They want high-quality, healthful foods and complete transparency into the food — not just where it's from, but how it's grown, handled, processed and prepared." Such expectations led Freeman to launch his second overarching Microsoft dining initiative in 2011, the Ingredient Revolution. It's a movement specifically designed to deliver on demands for transparency and fuel growing interest among customers in seed-to-fork-style operations. "We've really played to the idea of where your food comes from," Freeman says. "Who the farmers are, how they take care of their land, if it's monoculture or polyculture, etc. We forged partnerships with local farmers and fisheries. And we launched a program called The Misfit Produce Rescue, which uses the 40 percent of crops that farmers routinely discard because they don't look good. We chop up misfit produce and use it in soups or stir-fries, which keeps it from being wasted. Our customers really care that we operate ac- cording to these kinds of values." The Ingredient Revolution has also brought chefs at Microsoft closer to the products with which they work. Rather than simply receive and prepare fresh, locally raised salmon, for instance, chefs visit the local fishery, where they experience the thrill of catching their own. Freeman says such field trips create a stronger connection to the foods they serve and gives them great stories to tell. Freeman is now taking a similar approach with on-site hydroponic farming. To date, the towers and pyramids have been managed and monitored by the company's team of ur- ban farming specialists. Hav- ing tested one of the towers at his own home to assess how to simplify setup and operation at other Microsoft locations, he experienced firsthand the satisfaction that comes with growing your own food. He wants his chefs to have that same experience and now plans to train them to man- age much of the hydroponic gardening efforts. TAPPING TECHNOLOGY This latest revolution extends to educating customers about the origins of foods served at Microsoft and tapping the company's technological capa- bilities to do so. "As with pretty much everything we're doing now, we're focused on phones to communicate and engage with our customers," Freeman says. "Millennials are always connected to their phones, so our approach is mobile first. We went to online mobile ordering a couple of years ago. Customers can get lots of informa- tion about product origin, nutrition, even videos of farming operations. Whatever we can do to engage with them using a mobile platform is where we've been headed." Freeman, of course, is surrounded by technology, and has been at some level for much of the past two decades. But it's only recently that he's begun to understand and get excited about the impact that technology can have on his own work. Beginning with the transition to cashless/cashier-less opera- tions in 2013 — employees simply swipe a card or their FE&S 2017 HALL OF FAME // MARK FREEMAN HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ZERO WASTE PROGRAM AT MICROSOFT All food used in Microsoft kitchens arrives in compostable or recyclable packaging. Power BI (business intelligence), a suite of business analytics tools developed by Microsoft, helps chefs accurately forecast demand and avoid overproduction. The program gives Freeman and Compass Group detailed nutritional information and insights on things like calories, sugar and salt consumed; how such measures vary from day to day; and where improvements could be made. Each week, thousands of gallons of fryer oil are converted into biodiesel by local recyclers. Several beverage vendor partners remove plastic packaging and six-pack rings before delivery. Produce vendors deliver fresh fruits and vegetables in con- tainers that they reclaim and reuse. On-site hydroponic growing provides a sustainable, minimal-footprint supply of some produce items. An infused water program gives employees easy, all-day access to ice water flavored with fresh ingredients such as citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi and herbs and encourages use of refillable personal water bottles.