Do you think your restaurant based school lunch program is all about the Menu’s? If so, it may be time to think again...
When I talk to parents and staff, there seems to be a disproportionate amount of emphasis on Menu’s. Menus are very important, but if your lunch provider isn’t properly managing your lunch program, the menu doesn’t matter much at all. School lunch management involves many, many moving parts. Here are some key things that every school lunch management company should do well for you and if they don’t, it may be time to look for a new lunch provider.
Dedicated Delivery Drivers-This is such an important element of any provider. When your lunch company provides their own drivers, they don’t leave the accuracy of your orders to chance. As the customer, the lunch provider can then thoroughly double and triple check the order for accuracy, before leaving the restaurant. If your lunch orders are missing entrees, sides, condiments, etc. on a regular basis, this is not acceptable and shouldn’t be tolerated. Restaurants are great at what they do, preparing and providing food from their restaurant. If your lunch provider is also having the restaurants deliver lunches, then accuracy of the orders is at great risk. A restaurant delivery person, grabs what he thinks is included and flies out the door. Make sure your lunch provider includes a Dedicated Delivery Driver for your school, otherwise, you can count on consistently inaccurate lunch deliveries and chaos.
Onsite Supervisors-Onsite Supervisors are professionally trained to properly warm, handle and distribute the students lunches and relieves the burden on school staff and volunteers to do so. The lunch management company should take responsibility for the food they have sold and a large part of that is being in the lunchroom to ensure students receive what they ordered, as well as quality control. If your lunch company doesn’t insist on providing this service, they are leaving distribution and quality to chance. Having volunteers or school staff who do not represent the lunch company, handle the food, is risky business and not only puts those individuals at risk, but also the lunch company and the school.
Customer Service-Does your lunch provider respond promptly to customer service requests or does it often take days to receive a response? It should only take minutes or hours to get a question answered from your lunch provider and you should only need to contact one number and one email address. Any school lunch provider that shuffles your emails and calls to a third-party ordering site, isn’t doing the job they were hired to do. Fast, friendly and accommodating customer service is crucial to a successful lunch program and your lunch company should be providing it to your families.
Yes Men and Women-Does your school lunch provider say YES to everything you request? If so, that can be a huge red flag. Restaurant based school lunch programs can serve over 1,000 lunches a week from 8-10 different restaurants, for one school. Will your provider work with ANY restaurant, regardless of food quality, management quality? To protect the interests of the customer and protect their business and reputation, the lunch management company is responsible for making sure they choose restaurants wisely. Does the restaurant have a clean kitchen, make their food from scratch? Are they organized and able to handle the volume your lunch program will need? Are they in good financial shape ensuring they will be in business for the length of the school year? Have they passed their Health Dept. inspections? If you’re lunch management company doesn’t have a system and standards for vetting and training restaurants and their personnel, it can be very risky for your program and your students. If your provider is making promises they don’t or can’t keep and aren’t completely transparent, it’s time to look for a new provider.
When hiring a new lunch provider, it is important to get references not just from their current clients, but more importantly from the restaurants they are doing business with every day. Does the lunch management company pay their bills on time, are they easy to work with, are they organized and on top of things? The restaurants will be able to give you a good behind the scenes look, possibly exposing the lunch company’s weaknesses and incompetency’s as well as their financial stability. Another red flag is a lunch company that pays their vendors with a credit card instead of company checks. Always check with the lunch management companies vendors before making your selection.
These are just a few important items that you should look for in your lunch management company. Anyone can put a sign up, a web site and open their doors for business and promise the moon. Having a seasoned professional with an experienced track record and one who provides all the above is crucial to the success of your lunch program. So yes, menu’s matter, knowing what the kids want and like and providing a large variety to choose from is important in any lunch program, but it isn’t everything and in the scheme of a large school lunch program, as you can see, it’s only a very small part.