What initiatives foodservice directors are tackling this summer

summer planning

While students are able to get some rest during the summer break, the work doesn’t end for operators. They instead get to spend the next few months making improvements to the menu and their facilities to prepare for students to return to school in the fall. Read on to see what they're working on. 

Learning new equipment

wood-fired grill

This summer, when not supplying meals for orientation and various summer camps, the dining team at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa will be focusing on its Lakeside Dining Center renovation.

The concept shut down during the spring semester and will be under construction until students return to campus in the fall.

While construction is underway, dining staff will spend the summer learning new recipes for the concept’s new stations, as well as how to run the equipment being installed.

“We’re making operational plans for each section so it will be a real consistent product when it comes out. We’re trying to develop those plans the processes for each station,” says Kristina Patridge, director of dining services. “There’s a lot of new equipment that we’re not used to, so we’re trying to get some training on that as well as training on how to repair things.”

The piece of equipment staff is most excited for is a wood-fired grill, Patridge says. The grills will be installed at a station that will act as a Brazilian steakhouse. The staff is using the summer to learn how to properly use them.

“When you have [these grills], you also have to think about where are we going to store this wood? How are we going to handle the ashes?” Patridge says, adding that she is trying to connect with the school’s arboretum to see if they would like to use the ashes for their gardens.

Upstairs, Sola, a new street food taco concept, will offer tacos made with fresh tortillas. The concept will also serve popsicles.

“We have purchased a popsicle maker, so we’re also developing recipes for interesting popsicles, which will be displayed beautifully in their own case,” Patridge says.

Making a marketing plan


Students at Oak Park and River Forest High School in Oak Park, Ill., will also be able to enjoy new dishes beginning in the fall. Over the summer, staff is working on a new stir-fry concept, which Director of Food and Nutrition Services Micheline Piekarski believes will be well-received by students.

“I chose a stir-fry station because it is really popular in the commercial segment,” she says. “Also, our students prefer any type of station/serving lines where they can see the product being cooked.

Students will be able to create their own stir-fry dishes using ingredients such as brown rice, grilled chicken, mushrooms, onions and peppers, as well as a variety of sauces.

One of the main things Piekarski is working on this summer is developing a marketing plan to spread the word about the new station.

“We will advertise the station on the parents’ Facebook page, send an email to all students, as well as hang posters and announce in the bulletin,” she says. “We also have a news channel here, and I am going to ask them to do a segment on the news station.”

Recipe testing

quinoa salad

Charleston County School District in Charleston, S.C., is using its summer meals program to test out new recipes with students to see if the dishes can be added to the permanent menu during the school year. One of the new recipes that is currently being tested is a salad that incorporates ancient grains.

“We make a cold salad using quinoa that has been cooked and chilled,” says Cafeteria Manager Margaret Grubb. “We add tomatoes, cucumbers and marinate it with an Italian dressing and serve as a side dish to the children in our district.”

Grubb says the district is also using the next few months to make changes to the tray line to improve efficiency.

“We are redesigning how the students will pick up the foods off the tray lines. The children can independently make their salads as the tray line is independent from the hot food line. There is a register at both lines.”

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