How to Begin the Transition to Self-Operated Foodservice

After making the decision to transition to a self-operated foodservice model, Nardin Academy took several key steps including ordering a deep clean for the kitchen, transitioning to reusable serviceware from disposables and developing a plan for catering.

menu tracking and task systemAs part of its transition to becoming a self-operated foodservice system, Nardin Academy set up a basic menu planning system.Moving from a provider to a self-operated kitchen was a decision Nardin Academy made after careful consideration. For first time readers, here is a summary of the steps Nardin Academy took in building up to this decision:

  • Quality of the current program
  • Kitchen design needs
  • Internal management
  • Community support
  • Student food preferences
  • Financials

Overall, it became clear a redefined food program was not only what the Nardin Academy stakeholders wanted but that it could be a good business decision. The school’s board of directors finalized that decision in May of 2013.

So what did Nardin Academy do next? Aside from asking their foodservice provider of 25 years to leave, Nardin Academy had to ready the kitchen for a new menu, staff, and system by the start of the 2013-14 school year.

Early research as part of this process indicated that Nardin Academy could function for a year or two without investing in a cafeteria or kitchen redesign. And the leadership team felt it was important to adopt the new program before trying to understand future needs. All of the suggestions we had outlined in our design evaluation and feasibility study (March 2013) were implemented in the summer of 2013.

Leslie Johnson, vice president of finance and operations, oversaw the transition to self-op. We got her quickly up to speed on things to consider in the food business. The most important keys to success in year one were to understand basic waste and sanitation systems as well as each staff member’s role.

For example, the school had never researched waste haulers or city services for waste removal, recycling, and composting. This is easy information to access, but it helps to know how much waste you generate, how often it should be serviced, and a fair rate for its removal. This is something we addressed in our assessment.

The foodservice provider had rarely shared detailed sanitation reports with school administration, so Nardin Academy needed to know what sanitation codes and inspections their staff will now handle. Beyond Green provided a manual for this.

Aside from serving student meals, Nardin Academy’s kitchen would be able to provide catering for the school. This had previously been done on the fly, so we set up an in-house catering system and trained staff on how to use it.

Nardin reusable service wareTo help meet its environmental goals, Nardin Academy switched to reusable serviceware from disposables.With the kitchen redesign on hold, finalizing the vision and cost for the dream kitchen became a priority. The team would evaluate the vision and budget during year one and use this information as the basis for a fundraising effort to support the program’s next phase.

Nardin Academy called for a deep clean of its kitchen after the former foodservice company removed its equipment. I personally shopped for equipment that would “band-aid” the heat and serve kitchen for a couple of years to support a scratch-cooked menu.

I had developed a relationship with Mark Hutchinson, a Nardin Academy parent who owns three restaurants in Buffalo. Hutchinson’s knowledge of the Buffalo market and its vendors helped expedite matters considerably. Aside from a braiser and a mixer, we also went looking for used stainless steel hotel pans and rolling racks.

Nardin Academy also switched to reusable service ware to help meet its environmental goals and the supporting smallwares items, such as napkin holders and baskets. This investment can pay for itself in a couple of years. The cafeteria now uses real plates, bowls, and silverware. Getting rid of 10 big trash bins meant purchasing three clear plastic bins that facilitate the waste separation process.

The school also implemented the quick fixes Melanie Smythe had suggested in her design analysis. One was to move the senior lounge into an unused dance room attached to the cafeteria. This would make more space for the new salad bar and POS systems. Another was to map out the flow of the service lines and position tables for things like the condiment station, coffee station, and toast bar.

All of this took place in the summer leading up to the new school year. With these changes being organized in the kitchen, Leslie Johnson and I focused on getting the right staff in place. You can learn about our hiring and training process in our next post.

Related Articles
  • A Caring Climate
    Ask most any foodservice professional about the most potent tool at th...