Equipment technology creates new possibilities for K-12 operators

school kitchen cafeteria foodservice equipment K-12

From Ovention.

Serving healthy, flavorful school meals doesn’t just mean offering whole grains, fruits and vegetables. It also means that school foodservice directors have to figure out the healthiest and most efficient way to prepare those meals—which, when working with limited kitchen space and out-of-date equipment, can be easier said than done. In fact, 88% of districts say they need at least one piece of new equipment in order to serve healthier meals, according to a recent study conducted by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project.

But serving more nutritious meals isn’t the only benefit that equipment technology can bring to districts. With the right equipment, such as the Matchbox® and Shuttle ovens from Ovention, school foodservice directors can also create greater operational efficiency and implement unique programs that generate excitement and drive school meal participation.

Flavor-forward, on-demand menu options

Menuing foods that kids enjoy is one of the biggest challenges most K-12 operators face. Lori Shofroth, director of dining services for Tippecanoe School Corporation, was no exception, but since the district installed two Ovention Matchbox® ovens at each of its two high schools, the dining services staff has been able to introduce a variety of customizable, student-approved menu items.

“We have a food court concept, and our philosophy is fresh and fast,” says Shofroth. Her district uses the ovens for a variety of dishes, including sandwiches, paninis and whole, scratch-made pizzas. In addition, her staff is now able to make these items to-order and in front of student customers, since the ovens are located directly on the serving line.

In fact, on-demand and display cooking is a growing trend in school foodservice, according to Tim Christianson, sales consultant for HRI, Inc. What’s more, Ovention’s innovative ovens are a natural fit for this type of service. “Operators are cooking in small batches now,” he says. “It’s not just cooking in front of students, it’s portraying a different level of customer service. [Ovention] is a true cooking-on-demand vehicle for K-12.”

Operational efficiency, versatility

In addition to the new menu items she’s been able to introduce since installing the Ovention ovens, Shofroth has also been able to streamline points of service and create a smoother workflow—which, in turn, has created a huge labor savings for her district. “The thing we found the most exciting about the oven, besides what it can do, is that anyone can run it,” she says. “It’s the same quality product every time you make an item. It’s all preprogrammed, and there’s no guesswork.”

Additionally, the cooking time for many items has decreased substantially—by 50% for some of the pizzas that Shofroth serves—which means that students’ wait time is lower, but the quality of the product is still there.

Christianson also notes that since the ovens don’t require a hood, they’re extremely flexible, and they can provide additional points of service for operators. For example, one operator Christianson worked with installed the ovens on mobile carts and used them for concessions during the school’s football games. “Now, they can move them wherever they want,” he says. “There’s a huge potential for added revenue.”

For Shofroth, the addition of the Ovention ovens has been game-changing for the way her district serves school meals. The results have been so positive, she says, that she’s looking into testing the oven at one of the district’s middle schools. “It’s been worth its weight in gold,” she says.

For more information on Ovention’s innovative foodservice solutions for K-12 operators, click here.

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