Ingenious Culinary Concepts http://www.ingeniouscc.com Sat, 04 Feb 2017 04:13:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.6 Two heads are better than one http://www.ingeniouscc.com/two-heads-better-one/ http://www.ingeniouscc.com/two-heads-better-one/#respond Thu, 03 Nov 2016 11:36:39 +0000 http://www.ingeniouscc.com/?p=2689 I have been working in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years and in the school foodservice arena for over 10 of those years. When I started as a restaurant guest service manager at Walt Disney World, we had very rigid yearly evaluations and accountability policies. One of those pieces was that we …

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I have been working in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years and in the school foodservice arena for over 10 of those years. When I started as a restaurant guest service manager at Walt Disney World, we had very rigid yearly evaluations and accountability policies. One of those pieces was that we had to work with another line of business to accomplish tasks. For instance, food and beverage worked with merchandising to improve the guest experience. I took it upon myself to solve an issue that we had experienced all summer. It rained almost every afternoon and the guests would hang out in our restaurant and not go into the park. This caused congestion and slowed down our sales drastically. So I asked the merchandising department to set up a cart every afternoon when it rained, to sell ponchos to our guests. I know you’re probably thinking, what a great idea, why didn’t anybody else think of that? Yes, this should have been a no-brainer, but it would not have evolved if it was not for different lines of our business working together.

I have had numerous vendors ask me the same question: “How can we get better engagement from K-12 operators? It seems the only time we get responses is when they need something, such as food or giveaways, for meetings”. I know this is not the norm for every district but I have experienced this myself in the form of others not returning a phone call or email that was sent. I do not take it personally, but I want to help all of us be successful by working together for the sake of our end users, “the students.”

Here are some quick tips to work efficiently together.

1. Implement a 48 hour rule. Everyone can personally set a goal to return a call or email within 48 hours, even if you have a person from your team do it. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

2. You can develop a scripted response until you have time to fully follow up with that person. Type your response, save it as a draft, and send it to that person if you are too busy to send a new email every time.

3. You have to give to get. If a manufacturer, broker, or consultant has supported your school district financially or, the most valuable commodity, “time wise,” please try and support them. We have to make the entire industry successful.

Working with other lines of business can be mutually beneficial because we all can work together to create products and services to take companies and school districts to the next level. Remember, two heads are better than one.

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Breaking The Cycle http://www.ingeniouscc.com/breaking-cycle/ http://www.ingeniouscc.com/breaking-cycle/#respond Wed, 08 Jun 2016 05:30:55 +0000 http://www.ingeniouscc.com/?p=2595 Kern advises the importance of breaking the cycle of preparing for the school year. Click on the video for Kern’s suggestions on how food service professionals can implement one new project.   The School Nutrition Association’s conference is next month in San Antonio and Kern is speaking! Click the images below for more details.

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Kern advises the importance of breaking the cycle of preparing for the school year. Click on the video for Kern’s suggestions on how food service professionals can implement one new project.

 

School Nutrition AssnThe School Nutrition Association’s conference is next month in San Antonio and Kern is speaking! Click the images below for more details.

ANC Conference Jul 10 - 13 2016 in San Antonio

Kern Halls Speaking at ANC Conference 2016

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The Issue Is Not Money http://www.ingeniouscc.com/issue-not-money/ http://www.ingeniouscc.com/issue-not-money/#respond Wed, 11 May 2016 15:17:07 +0000 http://www.ingeniouscc.com/?p=2590 Kern conducted a focus group with some students and found out how much disposable income they have to spend every week.

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Kern conducted a focus group with some students and found out how much disposable income they have to spend every week.

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I Haven’t Eaten in Three Days http://www.ingeniouscc.com/havent-eaten-three-days/ http://www.ingeniouscc.com/havent-eaten-three-days/#respond Tue, 26 Apr 2016 05:30:06 +0000 http://www.ingeniouscc.com/?p=2581 I visited a school this past Tuesday after a three-day weekend and observed a male student walking into the manager’s office. I jokingly asked the student to share some of his food with me. To my surprise, the student thought I was serious and he immediately pulled his tray back. With a stern expression, he …

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school lunchI visited a school this past Tuesday after a three-day weekend and observed a male student walking into the manager’s office. I jokingly asked the student to share some of his food with me. To my surprise, the student thought I was serious and he immediately pulled his tray back. With a stern expression, he exclaimed, “I haven’t eaten in three days. You cannot have my food”. I paused for a split second while several thoughts bombarded my mind. I’ll share two.

Thought one, “how is it possible, in today’s society-not to have ANY type of food for three days?”

I personally have seen the pitfalls of poverty, therefore I can relate at a level that is all too familiar. In other words, “I get where this young man is coming from”. However, I know that there are resources available for families like his but how exactly do we ensure they know about it? How do we close the communication gap?

Which leads to my second thought – communication is essential.

How can we effectively get the message out and into the hands of parents and guardians about the plethora of resources available for the families of our most valuable stakeholder? The student.

school LunchThis experience has reminded me of how vital school meals are (especially breakfast and lunch service) for many families whose children depend on them. I applaud the many school districts who offer after school snacks and supper programs for students. These districts partner with various agencies to provide snacks and/or meals on the weekend. For many, these meals are heaven sent.

We all know there is no “one size fits all” solution but we have to figure out an efficient process for “getting the word out” consistently and effectively for our students’ sake. Let’s commit to ensure that not another child (within our reach) misses a meal on our watch.

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Can you give away free food? http://www.ingeniouscc.com/can-give-away-free-food/ http://www.ingeniouscc.com/can-give-away-free-food/#respond Tue, 12 Apr 2016 16:00:20 +0000 http://www.ingeniouscc.com/?p=2573 I had to increase sales in a school where the free and reduced percentage was at 90% while the participation rate was below 20%. This school could not “GIVE AWAY FREE FOOD.” What I mean by this is that the free and reduced rate was at 90% and only 20% of the students wanted to …

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image of a customer service word cloud, food serviceI had to increase sales in a school where the free and reduced percentage was at 90% while the participation rate was below 20%. This school could not “GIVE AWAY FREE FOOD.” What I mean by this is that the free and reduced rate was at 90% and only 20% of the students wanted to dine with us. This means students would rather go hungry than to come to the cafeteria and get a free meal. I will use another analogy. That is like me giving you a free tank of gas and you turn me down and instead pay for a full tank yourself. I know that sounds INSANE but that is what was going on in the cafeteria. Well that is downright shameful.

The team had to pull itself up by the bootstraps and go to work. We met with a group of students to first address the customer service and food offerings. We found out that the students were treated poorly at the point of sale. They were told “to hurry” up through the line, or asked callously “what do you want?” I was initially disturbed when I heard this but I have always said, “if you don’t know any better you can’t do any better”. The next point that came up was that the hot food was cold and the cold food was hot. The food on the line looked like the staff was in a rush to go home. In essence, the staff would come into to work and cook everything on the menu and PACK it into the warmers and put the cold items on the line and they would start to clean up so they could go home on time. How can you have food on the line or warmers at 9am and lunch is not served until 11am? If you had the last lunch shift you were in for a real treat (in my sarcastic tone), iceberg burgers with slightly warmed milk. So, I conducted some professional development with the staff so we could address the customer service and food quality issues.

Within two months we increased the school’s cafeteria participation by 30%! Not bad for a school everyone else had given up on!

Here is what you can do to have the same success.

  • Ensure that all of your cashiers are addressing the students by name or raise the bar and address them as yes sir or mam. Huh? Yes, just do it. This will give a new found level of respect for your staff.
  • Meet with student groups like band, student government, SGA, safety patrol etc. Getting involved will put a face to the cafeteria and you will not be known as “just” cafeteria workers. You will be known as Bill, Shelly or Teresa.
  • Sample product offerings frequently. The students need to know what is on the menu before it is served at lunch. I suggest that you take the same approach of the food court in a mall. Hand out samples. Yes, take the retail approach and give out samples to your customers because it will build a rapport with your student base and establish you as a team that provides excellent service.

Yes, 30% in two months. Was it easy? Heck, no. But you can do it. What you need is a team dedicated to making necessary and impactful changes. That means paying attention to:

  • Putting the right menu items at the top of your list.
  • Nutritional value and price filtering the selection of the menu items.
  • Customer opinion that will aid in increased participation at all levels.

I’ve personally put initiatives in place throughout high schools yielding increases upwards of 46% over a 3-year period. My approach was and is still quite simple. We “let the student tell us the kinds of items they want to see in their cafeteria.”

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Mark Chavez Interview http://www.ingeniouscc.com/mark-chavez-interview/ http://www.ingeniouscc.com/mark-chavez-interview/#respond Thu, 07 Apr 2016 16:55:30 +0000 http://www.ingeniouscc.com/?p=2567 Click on the image below for my interview with Mark Chavez. Mark is the Director of Nutritional Services at the Santa Ana Unified School District in California. Share your comments below.

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Click on the image below for my interview with Mark Chavez. Mark is the Director of Nutritional Services at the Santa Ana Unified School District in California.

Share your comments below.

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You might need a little help http://www.ingeniouscc.com/might-need-little-help/ http://www.ingeniouscc.com/might-need-little-help/#respond Tue, 22 Mar 2016 05:30:15 +0000 http://www.ingeniouscc.com/?p=2562 I love the sport of baseball and I love playing golf. You are probably saying what in the world does this have to do with school foodservice? Hold on a second and let me explain. I’ve played baseball since I was 5 years old. One of my favorite players was Ken Griffey Jr.,  and Tony …

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Help image, foodservice, foodservice professionalI love the sport of baseball and I love playing golf. You are probably saying what in the world does this have to do with school foodservice? Hold on a second and let me explain.

I’ve played baseball since I was 5 years old. One of my favorite players was Ken Griffey Jr.,  and Tony Gwynn. Both players had beautiful swings and played with passion. Tony took his game to another level by filming each “at bat” then going back and analyzing it so he could perfect his craft.

He would work with his hitting coach to make sure he was performing to his full potential. His hitting coach helped him reach his potential. The result? The Hall of Fame.

Then there is myself and my “so-called” love of golf. Love, right?  Yet I have not dedicated time to get a coach to help me improve my game. Sometimes  I’m lucky if  I even practice once per month.

Typically, I simply go out and play and I am disappointed by the results. What I should do is hire a coach.  But it is not a priority for me until I play and experience dismal results. As you can see, Tony’s result for working with a coach got him into the Hall of Fame. While Kern, not having a coach, has gotten me into the “Hall of SHAME”.

When I work with clients, they often tell me, “we have great products and services for our customers”.  But for some reason, there’s a disconnect, and students are not buying those same products.

I proceed to give them some data that I will also share with you.  “80% of companies feel they are providing a great product and service. 8% of their customers feel that those same companies are providing a great product or service”. Now that is a classic case of “perception is NOT reality”. I understand students give you input during focus groups but we have to drill down a little further.

Here are some coaching tips: 

  • First, make sure the environment you conduct the focus group in will yield the correct information. Students may not give you honest and reliable information if the manger is there and they feel their responses will hurt the manager’s feelings.
  • Second, when you conduct the focus group bring and use sample food items and let students create some items while you are with them. For example, if you have a chicken sandwich, bring some diverse cheese options and toppings. Also let them try various condiments and practice combining classics to create fresh concepts.
  • Third, have students promote the products in the school. Our customers want to hear from their peers so let them get on the morning announcements and talk about breakfast and lunch in a creative way. They will make it exciting and help you increase participation.

As a coach, these are some ways that we can assist you to increase participation. You are probably saying this is a lot and my plate is already full. I get it. I have been there and done that. You have to acquire help.

There’s no other way to say it. If you want to take your program to another level…you have to seek outside resources. The majority of companies outsource their marketing efforts and work together with those companies to execute those strategies. I (personally) have received business coaching to make sure that I am at the top of my game. If you are tired of putting those marketing projects on the back burner, contact us at info@ingeniouscc.com or contact your neighboring district that’s doing a great job within their schools.

I can ensure you that you won’t regret investing in yourself and getting some type of assistance. Start somewhere, even if it is something as small as one promotion a year. Michael Jordan had a coach and has won multiple championships. Even Taylor Swift has a vocal coach. Are you ready for a coach? Come on; let’s get in the game!

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Lisa Marino Interview, Part 2 http://www.ingeniouscc.com/lisa-marino-interview-part-2/ http://www.ingeniouscc.com/lisa-marino-interview-part-2/#respond Tue, 08 Mar 2016 05:30:28 +0000 http://www.ingeniouscc.com/?p=2552 Hopefully you had a chance to read part 1 of 2 of my interview with Lisa Marino HS manager at Creekside HS. She takes a really aggressive approach of going after her customers. If they are on her campus she is going to try and feed them. Here is how a High School cafeteria manager …

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Hopefully you had a chance to read part 1 of 2 of my interview with Lisa Marino HS manager at Creekside HS. She takes a really aggressive approach of going after her customers. If they are on her campus she is going to try and feed them.

Here is how a High School cafeteria manager increased her sales.

Kern: Definitely! You mentioned that one of your challenges was opening your school. On my visit, I was really impressed by the fact that you took the initiative to open more lines for students because the number one complaint when I do focus groups is that “the lines are too long.”

What advice can you give to another high school manager with 3 or 4 lines open? Talk about what you did to open more lines, and if you think it is possible for additional lines to be opened at your school.

Lisa: I think the most important thing is getting with your administration and finding out what their needs are, and what they are scheduling. This way you’d be a part of the solution rather than the problem.

We have 3 lunch blocks, but recently my principal mentioned that we’ll soon be increasing enrollment by 300 students. I simply said, “If there is any way that I can get into the school store in the courtyard that I would be able to open additional lines. In the first year in opened one additional line and that took the pressure off of the five /six lines we had. This year we opened a second line and we’re already thinking about where we could open the next line. I also mentioned to my director that we need a small, rolling kiosk on the other side of the courtyard because there are a lot of kids stationed there and we need to make the most of our time because it is invaluable to everyone. I realize that they don’t want to come into the lunch line so we have to move a service line to them in order to ensure that they eat and that is very important. Fortunately, administration is giving me the space to do so.

Kern: How many lines do you currently have opened for full service?

Lisa: Right now I have eight and next year I will have nine.

Kern: Nine, is there anything is particular that you plan to do with those lines? Would you have the space and opportunity to do so?

Lisa: Yes I definitely would, and according to future building plans this will be the biggest school in the area as they may build a 9th grade center. That being said, there will be growth for at least 2,000 more students and additional kiosks can be placed anywhere as long as the department makes it available. Luckily, food services is well funded here and every time I open a line, I generate more revenue for the school district. For instance, more kids, more lines, more money. It makes a lot of sense. I currently have more spots that I can open up and I still put a third line in the “outhouse”. I can also use the bookroom when school reopens and all books have been distributed. The principal would be so happy to see the space being used that they’ll say, “If you can make it work, make it work.”

Kern: Definitely! You said that there’s a chance to increase revenue. What do you do on a daily basis and how are you doing with a la carte sales, etc.?

Lisa: Lunches, we serve anywhere between one hundred and fifty and one hundred and ninety in actual school lunch. Al a carte sales run anywhere between thirty-two to thirty-five hundred a day.

Kern: Yes, you’re really aggressive and you’re doing a really great job with that. On my visit, I noticed that you don’t only serve during the lunch period. When else do you serve?

Lisa: My registers and my staff will serve anytime. I recall at the beginning of the school year the principal said, “Why are the kids stopping in and just picking up food? Why are you letting this happen?” I replied, “The routine is that the kids come in here and I say no. They go to their class and tell their teacher that they have a stomach ache or whatever. They end up going to the nurse and the nurse tells them that they’re hungry. The nurse then sends them down to me to feed.” I’m stopping the middleman. They don’t miss any class, they run in, they grab a snack. We tell them, “Eat the food before you get to the class.” With these high schoolers, a couple of bites while walking through the courtyard and they’re done.

Kern: They’re done.

Lisa: I feel the teacher’s job is to teach, my job is to feed and if they tell me they’re hungry, I’m feeding them. So it’s a good marriage (so to speak) here.

Kern: Definitely! What keeps you motivated to meet the FNS goals?

Lisa: What keeps me motivated is the fact that if I do come up with ideas, my food service administrators are all for it. It’s never a downer. It’s always, “That’s a great idea. Do you think you could do it?” and “How would you do it?” Once I explain how I would do it, if they feel it’s feasible… it’s all systems go. As things change, we all have to change. This is everyday life. Some people are resistant to change.I don’t really understand why because then you’re stuck. Why wouldn’t we want something new? We all want something new every day.

Kern: What could you share with a manager or director about the most creative strategy that you use to increase student participation?

Lisa: It’s just basically switching it up, getting to know what your kids want and being creative with the food. I try to think about what I’d like to eat and how we can make it happen within the guidelines. I know when you were here I gave you that little chicken parmesan. I’m Italian, I like Italian food. The way it worked for me is, you know the recipe was a little different when she (the director) sent it out to us. We were to cook the chicken in the oven, and I just felt that it was the type of thing that would make it too dry. So we tried it according to the recipe, cooking by poaching and the chicken fell apart. When the kids dig in, it would shred instead of maintain the shape of a whole piece of chicken. You have to think ahead…how we’d want the dish to be served as we have a lot of restrictions. If we were serving frapuccino coffees, and then we switched it up and said, “Hey, buy an ice cream cup and you can make floats.” You know the kids love that stuff. They love anything new. If we take a flat item and instead of folding it, and we keep it open, students ask, “Hey, what’s that?” to them, it’s a new item. It’s the way we market it… If a kid is buying school lunch and they’re missing a few components, but they have the vegetable and the entree we’ll say, “Hey, did you know you can get a free milk with this?” By saying the word “free”, we engage them. They’re excited, they’re happy and they get the rest of the components. So it works!

Kern: Awesome, awesome! So what’s a piece of advice would you give to first year managers?

Lisa: My advice would be, don’t micromanage. Let people think and be nice to everybody. Treat people how you want to be treated. If you treat them lousy, they’re going to treat you lousy. That’s my biggie.

Kern: One thing I noticed that was really unique about your school, is the dress code that you have. Can you tell us a little about that?

Lisa: Yes, I definitely do not like uniforms. We’re in a high school where kids dress a certain way. They wouldn’t respond to everybody dressed in those (I think they’re ugly) food service outfits. Hence, we wear team outfits. Sometimes the track team will give us t-shirts, the PTO will give us shirts, or we purchase them from the local stores. My girls wear their preference of jeans, of course within dress code. Nothing vulgar, but they look cool.

I believe when your staff looks a certain way and acts a certain way, you get a response. I’ll have all registers going, 8 lines, and every single lunch person has a following of kids that wants a few minutes of their time for orders. They’ll want to know where they are (if they don’t see them that day) to tell them about their day. It helps with everything. You can chat about your hat if you’re representing Yankees that day, or even during basketball season. They know what teams you’re into and it’s nice.

Kern: Casual is cool then?

Lisa: Casual is cool, definitely, definitely.

Kern: Definitely, definitely! I always like to end on a great note, something that’s kind of funny. Tell me, what is one interesting fact about yourself that others may not know?

Lisa: Interesting fact that’s funny? Oh, I don’t know about funny…

Kern: Yeah, that’s funny or just an interesting fact, anything you’d like to share with the folks out here.

Lisa: I initially went to school for baking and pastry. I went to school at the culinary institute and that’s why I opened my bakery. I wanted to be in a type of late night restaurant business because I like early morning, but I really didn’t think I’d like 3 o’clock in the morning. However, I did like that and I was always happy because when you bake for people, it’s a happy occasion. That’s my thing, other than pug rescue.

Kern: Pug rescue, I love that, I love that. We got to get our dogs together some time for a play-date.

Lisa: That’s it, that’s it.

Kern: Well Lisa, I want to thank you. This is Lisa Marino, she’s at Creekside High school at St. John’s County, Florida. We want to thank you for your time today and we wish you the best of success. I hope you enjoy your summer and get some well-needed and deserved rest.

Lisa: Thank you so much, I really appreciate that Kern.

Kern: Alrighty, thank you.

If you have a great story that you want to be told please email us at info@ingeniouscc.com.

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Lisa Marino Interview, Part 1 http://www.ingeniouscc.com/2537-2/ http://www.ingeniouscc.com/2537-2/#respond Tue, 23 Feb 2016 18:24:02 +0000 http://www.ingeniouscc.com/?p=2537 The post Lisa Marino Interview, Part 1 appeared first on Ingenious Culinary Concepts.

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Lisa Marino, Food Service ManagerI have the privilege of meeting great leaders in school foodservice, but this person really stuck out to me. I saw passion and resiliency in her eyes. The way she lead her team and the business perspective she had for her operation was second to none. You will get a chance to see how she approaches her job and how she generates over $3,000 in a la carte sales on a daily basis! You are about to read part 1 of 2 of my interview. With Lisa Marino, manager at Creekside High School.

Kern: Alright, we’re here with Lisa Marino at Creekside High School. So Lisa, how are you doing this morning?

Lisa: I’m doing great, thank you!

Kern: Alright, so tell me your name, what school you’re from?

Lisa: Okay, my name is Lisa Marino and I work at Creekside High school, St. John’s County Schools in Jacksonville, Florida.

Kern: Okay, and what is your position in the school?

Lisa: I’m a food service manager at the high school level.

Kern: Awesome, awesome, awesome. So tell me a little about yourself, Lisa.

Lisa: Well, I have 4 pugs, I’m married, I’m 51 and I love working in the food service industry.

Kern: You’re a dog lover like me!

Lisa: Oh my God. I do pug rescue. So I get them, you know, I can’t give them back so I just keep them.

Kern: Ok, how long have you worked in FNS?

Lisa: 13 years.

Kern: 13 years, so what did you do before that?

Lisa: I was in New York and I was an owner/operator of a bakery.

Kern: Wow, so do you have a sweet tooth?

Lisa: I do! I do have a sweet tooth, but I have to be good you know? I can’t make those big batches like I used to at the bakery. So I have to cut the recipe down quite a bit for home use.

Kern: Was there a signature recipe that you made that was also your most popular item?

Lisa: Well, for adults it was an old fashioned cinnamon roll. A baking powder recipe. It was fantastic, I would eat one a day because they were my favorite. I was probably about 20 pounds heavier when I owned a bakery.

For the kids, it was ice cookies so every occasion I would do a different kind of ice cookie. For Halloween we would do finger cookies, little eye ball cookies, witches cookies etc. At Christmas, we would do Santas, stockings and snow balls. It was great, it was great. It was a happy job.

Kern: That is awesome. So what led you to come into school food service?

Lisa: Well, when we left New York it was right after 9/11 and property value soared in my area because I was about 15 minutes in New York. It was a good time to move.
We moved down here and I really didn’t know what was I going to do. So I decided from owner/operator working crazy, crazy, crazy hours to a 200-day a year job sounded great. I applied for a food service position and because they just didn’t let you go straight into management down here, you had to go through a year program. After that, I opened my first elementary school two years after I got here.

Kern: You sound a little bit like me because I was lured into the school food industry by having not to work nights and weekends; That was a key deciding factor for my decision.

Lisa: It is because I always worked, for 10 years straight even for all the holidays. I’d be closed on Christmas day but it didn’t matter because I was dead tired from all the work that I put in from working continuously beforehand. You know how it is? Owner/operator, it’s crazy, crazy hours and you never rest, you never rest.

Kern: How was your transition for owning your business to working in school food service?

Lisa: Oh my God, I feel like I’m retired. It’s so easy! It’s so easy, you know what I mean? The only thing I have to worry about is what time we’re serving. Everything else is ready to go, and if I encounter problems I make a quick call to the district and there’s an electrician here, or somebody for refrigeration. You know my food is already here. I order ahead but it’s like I said, it’s like being retired.

Kern: Right. What do you tell a person that says, “Oh, this is a lot of work!” What could you tell a person who may want to get into the industry right now that says, “Oh, this is a lot of work” or wonders “Will it be a lot of work?”

Lisa: Well, I think it is initially. It is work until you get your rhythm and then what I would tell them is: If you think this is hard work, you need to go work out into the real world and then you’ll see what hard work is because working here is a luxury. It’s like you said, having the weekends off and no holiday. We need to be on point when serving the kids. It’s about 2 hours a day that we’re actually serving the kids, otherwise it’s prep. If you think this is hard work maybe you should get out of food service because it is! You know what I mean, it can be rough sometimes.

Kern: Yes, absolutely. Trust me. I’ve worked those 14-15 hour days at Walt Disney World, so I know where you stand. So what is the most fulfilling part of your job?

Lisa: The most what part of my job?

Kern: The most fulfilling part of your job.

Lisa: I would have to say knowing that you’re helping. That we’re here doing a great thing. We’re feeding the kids and you can’t learn or do anything unless you are fed and ready to go. That’s what we’re here to do.
I know I make a difference everyday when I realize how many kids are served and how happy they are to see us. Just taking care of people. We’re in the service industry, that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to serve our customers and mine happen to be students, and it’s fantastic.

Kern: That is great. What is your proudest moment to date, involving your students?

Lisa: Proudest moment… I have some different ones but the most recent one I would have to say is: When the seniors graduate they have to write a letter to someone in the school that’s made a difference. It’s never anyone that I actually knew, it’s just someone who has been affected by work that I do… One student wrote a letter to the assistant principal that she would like to thank me for managing the cafeteria department. She mentioned that I made really great food and that school is stressful enough, that it’s nice to have a place to go to for 30 minutes where she can relax. She also mentioned that she especially likes our outside unit because she doesn’t have to come in and join long lines. She can run out, grab what she wants and go about her business, socializing.
It makes me happy to know that I didn’t actually work with this student, but the impact is important and it’s nice to know that it’s noticed. It’s a really nice thing.

Kern: Well I’m glad you said that because I travel around the country and I get a chance to talk to managers, directors and front line employees on a weekly basis. I always tell them how important the cafeteria manager and the staff members are. I had the same opportunity with my elementary school manager (from childhood). She really played a significant part in my life by making my day at school a lot easier, so I want to thank you for enhancing the experiences of that student and many others.

Lisa: Well, thank you. That’s really nice. This is a great job, you know.

Kern: Of course, with every job there are ups and downs and I’m glad that you have had more ups rather than downs, but what has been your biggest challenge at the school and how do you overcome it? How did you overcome it?

Lisa: My biggest challenge with the school is when I open it. I’ve opened two schools so when I opened this high school, it went from two lines to nine lines plus seating kids. The numbers then were 600 and were going to 1,500 now it’s at 2,000. I would have to say that the biggest challenge is setting up and getting ready, especially with a new routine.

The main thing is that you get your priorities straight. I actually came into this kitchen when the workmen were still here so here I am, and food’s coming in a week and my cooler isn’t ready… By prioritizing and telling them what I needed, and who was going to be there…we were able to get the school open smoothly without me having to cook outside and transporting food back down to the school. However, a new challenge that I’m working on right now with the athletic director is about concessions. I came up with the idea that food services should be a part of running the concession program in the evening because the workers are trained. The concession’s program is mostly volunteer based and I believe it encourages community as the parents want to be a part of their kids’ school. As for the food service workers, they’d be able to work extra hours because their work day is short (6 hours a day is considered full time and nobody can survive on 30 hours a week). They have other outside avenues, but when my workers do the concessions service I am ensured that their hours will be increased in a fun and different environment that will involve them in a school-based activity. That’s a big thing that I’m working on right now and I won’t know the outcome until I’m there, which is by the first football game.

Kern: I think it’ll definitely work out because not only are you creating opportunities for your staff, but you are also getting your external (stakeholders) involved. i.e. That parent, board member, superintendent, thus taking your staff and kitchen to another level. That would be a great addition to school food service, kudos to you for coming up with that concept.

Lisa. Yeah, yeah. I’m very excited about that because it’s new and it’s exciting for me. Of course, doing my job is fine but I like the idea of something new. It’s nice, it’s nice.

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Train, train and train some more http://www.ingeniouscc.com/train-train-and-train-some-more/ http://www.ingeniouscc.com/train-train-and-train-some-more/#respond Tue, 09 Feb 2016 05:30:18 +0000 http://www.ingeniouscc.com/?p=2367 What’s the benefit of continuous learning? While in the military, we had to go through 8 weeks of boot camp. Let me tell you, 8 weeks of boot camp was a culture shock for a scrawny 18-year-old kid coming right out of high school. One of my fellow sailors was in denial about the time …

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What’s the benefit of continuous learning? While in the military, we had to go through 8 weeks of boot camp. Let me tell you, 8 weeks of boot camp was a culture shock for a scrawny 18-year-old kid coming right out of high school.

One of my fellow sailors was in denial about the time we started our day. “Is that 5am or 5pm”, he asked after we received our first day orders? There was more confusion on his part. “What is 0500 hours”, he said? Well…after they made him “pump out” 50 push-ups for being inquisitive, I was glad he asked the question and not me. That was until our instructors made all of us do additional push-ups as well.

From this experience, I learned really quickly the importance of operating as a team. A huge portion of that teamwork included our daily training that (at the time) I felt was punishment. Unbeknownst to me, it was preparing us for various battle scenarios.

We trained, trained and trained some more. We trained so much that by week 3 we were in sync because our training and preparation started to make us ready for the future. FYI, nothing gets you ready for the gas chamber-but I digress.

After boot camp, we all went off to various schools then to our first duty station. Needless to say, we were well equipped for our numerous roles. At that point, I found out we did additional training at our duty stations! I was thinking to myself, “what else is there to train on”?

Well, it was time to learn the details of our ship and how to cook in a real world environment. I can tell you, cooking in today’s school houses compared to cooking on a ship (moving through 8-10 foot waves) is totally different. But going through all of the training scenarios prepared me for what was at hand.

Fast forward to our schools. We have to consistently provide professional development to all of our school foodservice professionals. No matter the field, knowledge is power.

They too have to be ready to service our customers who are changing on a daily basis. It’s imperative to cover customer service, leadership and marketing strategies to bring your customers to the table.

Our competition is not other schools. They are the retail outlets. Students do not eat at other schools or cafeterias when they leave your campus. They eat in popular retail establishments.

Let’s knock their socks off and give them the best experience possible when they dine with you. Consistent, quality professional learning opportunities are a great place to start.

I hope you enjoy the video.

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