This year, operators across all segments put on events to educate and engage their customers and dining staff. Here are several events that caught our eye in 2018.
1. Desserts galore
Dessert lovers at Boston College were in for a treat this past October when the school hosted its Ultimate Dessert Experience. During the event, put on my BC’s in-campus bakery and catering team, attendees could grab a variety of treats from an unlimited dessert buffet. The Experience allowed the bakery to teach students about some of the quality bakery items it produces.
“We love showcasing what our BC Bakery is capable of and while students see some of our products in the units—they were blown away to find out that our own bakery was making all these higher-end items right on campus,” says Payson Krell, event manager for catering operations. “They were super impressed that this was created by our team.”
Photograph: BC Dining
2. Shopping for produce
Even though school was not in session, Manteca Unified School District in Manteca, Calif.,
still hosted events for students and their families during the summer break. The district put on junior farmers markets, where kids could participate in an education session on the importance of eating healthy. After the session, kids received three “nutrition education dollars” that they could use to shop for healthy produce at the market.
“The idea was if [kids] received pretend money and got to decide how they would spend it, they would be more invested in the selection and excited to not only purchase it, but also eat it,” says nutrition education supervisor Stephanie Huff.
Photograph: Manteca Unified School District
3. Students are the chefs
Student employees on the dining staff were the chefs during Pennsylvania State University’s chef challenge for culinary apprentices. Sponsored by Barilla, the event asked teams of two to come up with their own pasta dish with the help from managing chefs. The winners each received a pair of Beats headphones and a Fitbit. Student dining employees are promoted to culinary apprentices through a manager’s recommendation or if they have an interest in food.
4. Live cooking contest
Sunrise at Reston Town Center in Reston, Va., decided to use a live cooking competition to show its residents and their families what goes in to producing the scratch-made meals at the senior living community. The executive chef from Reston Town Center and two chefs from other local Sunrise communities competed to make an entree and a dessert. While chefs completed some components of the meal ahead of time, they had to use pasta, the secret ingredient, in a live demonstration in front of attendees.
Photograph: Sunrise Senior Living
5. Bringing the community together
Once a month, the local community large gathers for dinner inside the cafeteria of Concrete School District in Concrete, Wash. The meal is part of a community dinner series created by a group of teachers who wanted to get to know students’ families outside of school. Today, the events are put on by school and community organizations with help from the district’s nutrition team.
Organizers make sure the dinners are scheduled on the same nights as an event happening at the school, such as an open house or concert, to keep members of the rural district from having to make two trips to the school.
Photograph: Marla Reed
6. A feast fit for opening day
In celebration of opening day, Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., hosted a Baseball Across America event. Open to the public, attendees were encouraged to wear their baseball gear and were treated to dishes inspired by ballpark menu items throughout the country, such as a Philly cheesesteak for the Philadelphia Phillies and a hot dog bar inspired by the Chicago Cubs. The dining team says it they served 1,284 guests at the event.
Photograph: Cornell Dining
7. Open farm
This summer, Augusta Health in Fisherville, Va., celebrated the opening of its farm with a farm open house. The goal of the event was to showcase the different types of produce grown there, while offering opportunities for community members to learn about nutrition.
Attendees could eat and buy fresh produce from the farm and take a tour of the grounds. Activities for children included making seed balls (balls of dirt and seeds) that they could take home and plant to grow wildflowers.
Photograph: Elora Overbey
8. Chocolate for charity
Watermark at Beverly Hills, an assisted-living community in Beverly Hills, Calif., hosted a chocolate-themed benefit breakfast for MAPS Charities. Attendees enjoyed a menu centered around items such as handmade mirror chocolates and bonbons, Nutella-and-chocolate stuffed croissants, chocolate chip French toast and hot chocolate with white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate shavings. Guests also got to take home chocolate chip banana bread and chocolates as a gift for attending.
Photograph: Watermark Retirement Communities