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out the healthiest and most efficient way to prepare those meals—which, when working with limited kitchen space and out-of-date equipment, can be easier said than done.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.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

After shutting down 265 schools due to ongoing wildfires, the Los Angeles Unified School District kept three schools open on Friday and Saturday to provide meals for students and their families, the Los Angeles Times reports.

At one of the schools, employees and volunteers handed out around 100 meals on Friday and 270 meals on Saturday. The meals included items such as dragonfruit punch, raisins, bananas, sunflower kernels, whole-grain cinnamon graham crackers, sunflower seed butter and fat-free chocolate milk.

Around 80% of students in the district come from low-income...

Sponsored Content
Breakfast chili

From Bush’s Best®.

While decadent plates of French toast and pancakes stacked high will always be breakfast favorites, it’s undeniable that savory breakfast items are on the rise in many foodservice operations. Menu items such as avocado toast and omelets aren’t new, of course, but consumers’ preferences for better-for-you food choices, along with their desire for global flavors, are driving this trend.

According to a recent Technomic Breakfast report, consumer demand for vegetarian ingredients has led to an increase of ingredients like soy, tofu, beans, lentils, seeds,...

Industry News & Opinion

Industry veteran Joseph Fassler, 75, passed away on Dec. 1 after fighting cancer.

Dedicating over 50 years to foodservice, Fassler was the former president and CEO of Phoenix-based Restaura Inc., as well as a former chair of the National Restaurant Association and its Educational Foundation . In addition, he served on the advisory board for Northern Arizona University’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, and on the board of Oklahoma State University’s College of Human Environmental Sciences.

Fassler was given numerous awards throughout his career, including IFMA’s...

Industry News & Opinion

New York’s Department of Labor is seeking to overhaul the pay rules for foodservice employees and other workers whose job schedules might be tweaked at the last minute.

The proposals are a twist on the predictable-schedule laws that have been cropping up across the country. New York’s suggested rule changes look to protect call-in employees, or staff members who essentially are on standby to come into work if a shift is particularly busy. Although that setup is more of a convention in retailing, many restaurants also use that model, particularly during holiday seasons or on busy...

FSD Resources