Choices Galore

FoodService Director - What I Learned - Kathy KaneKathy Kane, foodservice director at the Michigan City (Ind.) Area Schools, increased participation by listening to students and increasing selections. Kane shares how she was able to make these changes by making more efficient use of her resources.

FoodService Director - What I Learned - Kathy KaneIn the four years Kathy Kane has been foodservice director at the Michigan City (Ind.) Area Schools, she has increased lunch participation 22% and breakfast participation 56%. For Kane, the growth was a result of increasing choices, improving the cafeterias and making more efficient use of her more than 80 staff members.

“Our lunch participation has increased 22% in the past four years, but our enrollment has been declining. So if you were to redo the increase as a function of current enrollment, it’s an even larger increase. The first thing we did was expand choices. In our high school we are offering 15 choices. Before, there were maybe five.

In our one high school we renovated the servery to accommodate the new choices. Where there was once just three really long lines, now there is a food court with different stations. We have the City Grill, which offers mini cheeseburgers, meatball subs and grilled chicken hoagies. Because chicken is so popular, we have the Chicken Kitchen, which offers spicy popcorn chicken and baked chicken with cornbread.

A really popular station is called The Construction Zone and that is where students can build their own meal. We do mashed potato bowls and a lot of Mexican fare there so students can build their own quesadillas or nachos. It just customized the meal and the students really liked that a lot. There is also an Asian bar in The Construction Zone. That area in particular was a huge transformation. It once was an area where just à la carte was sold, and now we have a soup, salad and sandwich bar. And again, students are able to create their own.

We do a lot of ethnic dishes now and the students really respond well to that. Before, we did not have many ethnic choices. Passports is our pasta bar station; we also have calzones here. Pizza This is our pizza, mozzarella sticks and stuffed breadsticks station.

We have the Wolf Stand. We surveyed the students and we had a number of them who really wanted something upscale. So we created an area for them where we offer customized beverages, coffee, smoothies, upscale sandwiches on ciabatta bread and other upscale entrées. We’ve done egg rolls with rice or orange chicken. We also do a yogurt, muffin and fruit bowl combination; we do premium chicken Caesar wraps; we do a fruit and yogurt parfait. Those prices are just à la carte pricing and they range from $1.50 to $2.50. At the secondary level lunch costs $1.85 for students.

When we did this total redesign, we brought in a lot of signage and branded the stations and we saw a huge increase in part because of the branding. This can be seen in MC2, which is based off of Einstein’s theory of relativity. MC2 is now our department logo and it stands for Michigan City Café.

Even with all these new choices, I did not have to increase my labor and that’s the best part. We did something a little creative with our labor and we split people into teams. So now we have production teams. We have an entrée team, we have a bakery team and we have a deli team. And just through reorganizing folks we are able to do a lot more efficient production. I’m very fortunate to have a staff that is willing to get as excited about change as I am. They really go the extra mile. One of the biggest lessons we learned was forecasting the number of entrées to make each day now that there are so many choices. The entrée team keeps a running history and from that we have been able to determine how many of each entrée to make.

Our breakfast participation increased 56% during the past four years. A big boost was that we implemented Provision II breakfast, which means breakfast is free to all elementary students. We’ve been doing this three years now and we are seeing those elementary students moving into the middle schools and they are continuing to eat breakfast even though now they have to pay for it. We are creating some good habits.”



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