For the second time in four years, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System's (VAPHS) canteen service has achieved the lofty status of Canteen of the Year. VAPHS was also Canteen of the Year for 2009.
The Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) provides all retail, food and vending operations for all VA facilities nationwide. Canteens offer modern food court environments, 24-hour vending outlets, and a broad range of national brand merchandise.
Today's canteens are considered by many customers to be The VA Company Store, benefiting Veteran patients, their family members, and VA employees.
VCS Chief Operating Officer Ray Tober personally honored VA Pittsburgh's canteen leadership and staff at a July 18 ceremony at the Heinz campus. Canteen Manager Janet Shawkey accepted the honor on behalf of her employees. "I am very proud of all of them and the work they do," said Shawkey.
Tober explained the rigorous process of deciding which canteens are "the best of the best." Customer satisfaction surveys and performance reviews help narrow the field. Then Tober and other VA executives visit the canteens as "secret shoppers" to see how well the staff serves the customers.
"I look at the way the staff interacts with employees and visitors, and that alone has knocked canteens out of competition," said Tober. "[VA Pittsburgh's canteen staff] really passed that muster."
VA Pittsburgh Director Terry Gerigk Wolf seconded Tober on the outstanding service VAPHS canteen staff provide. "No matter if you're preparing for a major event or serving a meal to a single Veteran, you always have a smile on your face and you always care," she told canteen staff.
Shawkey said customers have been impressed with VAPHS canteens' special 'made in the USA' sections, the ability to special order tires and appliances, haircuts, genuine Starbucks coffee and healthy choice food options.
VA canteens are self-sustaining, with no cost to taxpayers. Associate salaries and operating expenses are paid from VCS earnings. Every dollar of income generated by VCS is returned to VA to help improve the quality of life for Veteran patients and to improve the quality of the workplace for VA employees.