New Mexico Schools Keep Participation High
In school foodservice, having satisfied student customers equals a high participation rate — one that hovers between 76 and 84 percent is a participation rate any district would be proud of. Through a lot of hard work and smart design, that’s the average Lyman Graham has in his schools.
Graham is Food Service Director for the Roswell Independent School District, Carlsbad Municipal Schools and Dexter Consolidated Schools in southeastern New Mexico. He oversees the foodservice operations for all three districts, which have a combined total of 37 K-12 schools serving an average of 19,000 students daily.
A few years back, Graham decided that two of his high school foodservice operations needed an upgrade “to make them more like a food court,” he says. But space was at a premium since the schools were fairly old. “Goddard High School was built in the Cold War, the early 60s,” he said, “while Roswell High School was built way before that.” Cost was also an important consideration as the renovations had to come out of his regular foodservice budgets.
Graham looked at a number of equipment vendors over the course of several years. “Every time I’d get a price I’d shake my head because it was just craziness,” he says. He finally selected products from Duke Manufacturing, locally represented by Ignite Foodservice. Ignite Territory Sales Manager Russell Shupe picks up the story. “Their lunch periods are around 20 minutes and [Graham] gets hit with hundreds of kids each time the bell rings,” Shupe says. “His problem was a traffic jam or bottleneck in terms of getting the kids through. He needed to keep them in line, so to speak. Get them in, move through the line and get out as quickly as possible.”
One major consideration was being able to do the refresh during summer break, and Duke delivered on that. “Most schools feel like you have a lot of time in summer,” says Graham. “But really you just close your eyes one day and blink, and it’s time to start school again.” By working in conjunction with the Duke team, the equipment was produced and installed in time for the start of school in fall.
Now, Graham’s Thurmaduke™ Serving Systems help him move students through lines quickly and efficiently, while making things easier for the staff. “We set up in horseshoes so you’re not walking yourself to death,” he says. If one worker needs to step away from a serving line, the worker behind them can just turn around and easily serve off two lines creating better flow.
Graham appreciated the fact that Duke went the extra mile in terms of listening to his ideas and delivering on time. “They were open to my suggestions,” he says. “They were the ones who were willing to put the rush orders on it, and make it work in the summer. That’s a big deal. I was proud to work with Duke.”