In 2018, Susan Golder brought her career experience in sales and marketing to the West Michigan-based hospitality company Creative Dining Services as Director of Marketing. And today, the company applauds and anticipates her promotion to Associate Vice President of Marketing and Business Development beginning July 1.
Susan Golder: A Culture of Integrity and Excellence
“Our team culture has been based on integrity – a working environment where we can expect candor, transparency and honesty,” says Golder when asked about her core values and team dynamic. “We strive to enthusiastically do what we say we’ll do, be dependable and not shriek away from accountability. I hope that every team I lead will celebrate interdependency with humility, a hunger to win, a playfulness, and an appreciation for excellence. My personal intent is to block-and-tackle so that everyone on our team can do their best work with the greatest level of fulfillment.”
Susan Golder’s team works in tandem with Business Development throughout the sales process and serves all internal departments such as Culinary, Sustainability and People Services in addition to providing marketing support to 70 plus Creative Dining client locations. “Blocking and tackling” for her team members to do fulfilling work that advances the company’s reach and mission shows her others-first mentality and ability to have hard conversations and make tough calls. It’s one small part of her contribution to the company, but an important one as Creative Dining has expanded from a founder-run startup with three clients in 1990 to a now well-established, leading food service provider across the midwest and beyond in multiple market segments.
Susan Golder: Hungry. Humble. Smart.
Susan Golder’s position as Director of Marketing was a brand new role for the company when she started three years ago. She stepped into it thoughtfully; assessing and streamlining processes for a higher ROI in sales strategies and creative efforts in order to scale with the company’s growth while still maintaining the customized, transparent and flexible client experience that Creative Dining does best. Being a highly personalized company that blends their operations inside client locations seamlessly within the brand and culture of each client (from menus and signage to uniforms and special events), but that still needs it’s own corporate brand in the marketplace — this task has proved large and complex, but rewarding for Golder. And a dedication to hard work, excellence and integrity doesn’t stop with her and the marketing team, but is echoed throughout departments and state lines. When asked what she is most proud of at Creative Dining, Golder’s answer is her colleagues.
“We have the biggest-hearted team members. Across our dozens of locations and 14 states, there’s a consistent vibe of our Creative Dining teams,” says Golder. “We recently did an employee survey and 94% said they strive to give their best effort every day at work. Yes, 94%! This winter, team members were picking up other team members during snowstorms to be sure they made it to work. It’s stunning – the dedication, devotion and work ethic. I’m proud of our people. Their sense of humble servanthood inspires me.”
Humble servanthood is not just corporate jargon at Creative Dining but woven into the culture from inception and cultivated from the top-down with President and CEO Jim Eickhoff even having servanthood as his top career focus.
“Servanthood is a mark of hospitality, but for some reason not all hospitality companies have this reputation,” says Eickhoff. “It is how Creative Dining has been recognized apart from the crowd by clients and employees alike. I have even heard new hires saying, “Is this real, do they really treat their staff this well!?””
Susan Golder’s Impact
Susan Golder’s character of humility is evident by her continually pointing to her team and peers for successes and inspiration, leaving others to give her the credit she well deserves.
“Susan has played an integral part of the Creative Dining cabinet for the past three years and we are looking forward to this next chapter of restructuring to have both the sales and marketing teams come together as one under her leadership to deepen their collaboration and impact,” says Creative Dining President and CEO Jim Eickhoff.
“She has been instrumental at setting fresh vision for the company, establishing elevated brand positioning and a value proposition that our prospects understand and desire, executing modern marketing strategies, and even spearheading internal and external communication plans in the wake of COVID-19 that gave our clients and diners peace-of-mind. Not to mention, she has recruited, hired and developed an all-new marketing department consisting of talented outside marketing professionals and contractors that has been game changing for establishing Creative Dining as experts in our field.”
Susan Golder: Personalized Dining Experiences Bring Comfort and Connection
In a world where diner expectations are higher than ever, Golder knows that people compare their campus, corporate or assisted living community meals to their favorite restaurants. Gone are the days where the word “cafeteria” should evoke thoughts of the same tasteless food piled on trays for everyone in a line.
“Eating is more personalized than ever. It’s a trend over the last few years that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. A wide range of dining experiences at amazing local and global restaurants, an uptick in lifestyle eating preferences (think keto!) and growing dietary restrictions due to health concerns all drive an interest for a variety of food options at the locations we serve,” explains Susan Golder.
And Creative Dining chefs are here for it. They are culinary pros who use fresh ingredients from local farmers and artisans to craft anything from authentic global cuisine to juicy burgers with all of the toppings to vegetarian spicy buffalo cauliflower tacos; incredible food for every palate at every season of life. Creative Dining feeds students on college campuses, executives and their teams at corporations, and older adults at senior living communities in a way that keeps diners satisfied, listened to, and coming back for more.
Speaking of outstanding dining experiences, what are Susan Golder’s must-visit spots for cravable cuisine?
“If you haven’t been there already, run don’t walk to the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Bosnian restaurant called Zivio,” Golder says. “The atmosphere is cool contemporary and the food is special, especially the Mediterranean Nachos — a bed of warm pita chips and drizzled with tzatziki sauce. I could down this dish every day!”
On the healthier side, Golder says the Harvest Bowl from Tupelo Honey Cafe (also in Grand Rapids) comes to mind. “It’s a dish that’s good for the soul but health-full: roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts with a vinaigrette.”
But where will you most likely find her if she is not crafting sales proposals, discussing Donald Miller with her team or even leading meditations in the midst of busy days and deadlines?
“My most common “go to” is straight to Nonna’s: The Trattoria for their Tagliatelle alla Bolognese – housemade pasta, beef and pork Bolognese sauce and fresh parmesan. All is right with the world when I savor this dish and the care they put into making it.”
Want to eat or lead like Susan? Connect with her on LinkedIn at @Susan Anderson Golder on LinkedIn today.
Founded in 1990 with the vision of providing a personalized and flexible approach to food service management, Creative Dining builds fresh, custom dining programs for colleges and universities, corporations, assisted living communities and conference centers. Creative Dining serves delicious cuisine to thousands of people daily at over 70 locations in 14 states with 2,000+ employees. Plus, they know that dining is about much more than just food. It fosters and celebrates culture; it brings people together to share experiences and build community; it helps create a sense of belonging.
Feed your culture today — literally! If you’re looking to foster engagement, retention, productivity and satisfaction for those who call your organization their school, work or home, Creative Dining can help.