The new Beverly Cafe is designed like a food court.BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—Most K-12 schools don’t have a traditional retail outlet. Some schools, however, are revamping their cafeterias to create a retail feel in order to mimic what students see in the commercial world. One example of this retail renaissance can be found at the new Beverly Café at the Beverly Hills High School.
Chartwells School Dining Services took over the account at Beverly Hills Unified School District in late July. Travis Young, regional vice president for Chartwells, says the district’s foodservice program had been underperforming to the point that the district’s administration had considered doing away with the foodservice program at the high school and offering prepackaged meals in the rest of the district.
Creating an atmosphere: Young told the district’s administrators that he believed by creating a retail-inspired café, the students would begin participating in the program instead of going off campus for lunch. “We needed to create a café that had its own branded identity, where we were serving café-quality or restaurant-quality food on a daily basis and really giving it that retail look,” Young says. “Kids today have a lot of buying power, and when you look at Beverly Hills their buying power is probably a little bit better than others in the country. We looked at the demographics and the space and we said this could be a prime spot for us to really showcase what we can do with foodservice and how we can take a space and develop it with this retail mind-set.”
To create this retail atmosphere, Young and his team had to design a space that would meet the standards of the students. “When you think of Beverly Hills there is a certain connotation. You think of a very upscale, very elaborate type of place,” he says. “Unfortunately the café that they had at the high school did not really match up with [that image], because it’s an older school and they really had not been focused on foodservice for so long that really the migration of kids leaving campus took all the revenue away. We said, we’ve got to look at this and treat this like you would treat a brand new restaurant opening in any place in the Beverly Hills/Hollywood area.”
The team created Beverly Café, which is set up like a food court with different concepts, such as Zest, which serves Italian offerings such as pizza, calzones and pastas made to order; Deli, which has made-to-order and grab-and-go sandwiches and wraps; Greens, with made-to-order salads; Bake, where paninis are offered; and Sizzle, where display cooking is offered daily. Another concept is the Austin Grill, which is one of Chartwells’ internal retail brands. Austin Grill offers Tex-Mex items, including burritos in a bowl or a tortilla, and grill items like burgers and chicken sandwiches. Fresh salsas and guacamole are made on a daily basis and baked chicken wings also are offered. The Austin Grill is currently available in only two other K-12 schools besides the Beverly Café.
Throughout the café, there are coolers that offer grab-and-go items like sandwiches, fruit cups and parfaits.
Outside the café, a broom closet was transformed into Outtakes, another Chartwells’ retail concept. Outtakes offers grab-and-go options, including kosher items to cater to the district’s large Jewish population.
Young says the goal was to offer high-quality, made-from-scratch food and to get students to participate in the program by creating an atmosphere that was fun and distinct to the district. “We saw a place that was underperforming badly,” Young says. “It’s sitting in a city that is known all over the world, and we really felt like there was an opportunity here to truly do something that was unique in this high school setting to give the kids something special,” he says.”
The café was gutted and new equipment, signage and lighting was installed. Young says the only thing that stayed the same was the floor. A logo was created and is used throughout the café to brand the operation. Several times a week, a DJ plays music in the café.
Reaching out: Before the remodel, the cafeteria was serving between 75 to 100 people on a “great” day, Young says. Since the remodel, between 650 and 700 students per day are being served.
Even with that jump in participation, Young knew the café wasn’t reaching as many students as it could. The campus is large, with about a 10-minute walk from one end of campus to the other. So Young employed another idea that had been used at one of Chartwells’ university accounts—a mobile Outtakes golf cart.
“We knew that we would probably not be able to garner all the participation that we needed just by opening up the café,” Young says. “We knew that we were going to have to develop some other points of interest across the campus.”
With the Outtakes cart, the foodservice team can go to wherever students congregate. Between 100 and 125 students purchase meals from the cart each day. The cart serves many of the grab-and-go items that are offered in the Beverly Café. “Even though they aren’t getting the entire spectrum of the Beverly Café they are getting the to-go portion of it and they are able to taste the foods that we’ve created,” Young adds.