A New Look for Beloit High School’s Cafeteria
For Beloit High School in Beloit, Wis., filling cafeteria seats was a challenge. Enrollment was steadily decreasing and students increasingly took advantage of an open lunch policy to leave campus. Dawn Smith, the director of food and nutrition, sought to influence both of these scenarios with a space that offered fresher, more appealing menu choices.
“It’s never easy to convince people we need to spend money to make money,” notes Dawn, “but in this case it was essential.”
Dawn called Mike Matoska of Vollrath, who listened to her needs and desire for a “showpiece” cafeteria that would entice students to stay on campus for healthier lunches. The existing cafeteria had a collection of miscellaneous pieces without any real flow or cohesion. They discussed which pieces could be reused, where opportunities for new existed and what items the foodservice team wanted to serve.
One important request from Dawn was that students should feel involved and have ownership in the new space. A unique work program employs 25 students who earn money and learn responsibility along with restaurant skills. The renovation needed to keep this innovative program in mind, as well as the needs of full-time kitchen staff.
The planning resulted in a three-phase renovation. Phase 1 updated the main serving area; phase 2 included the addition of pizza, salad and sandwich bars; and phase 3 introduced a new honors lounge. Even though the remodel wouldn’t occur all at once, Mike and Dawn made sure the end result would be a cohesive look and much-improved flow.
Thrilled to achieve the “showpiece” look she and other foodservice employees dreamed of, Dawn was excited to share the new space with the entire community. After each phase, she invited district staff and community members to visit and received an overwhelmingly positive response.
Dawn’s original goal of increasing meal participation has been met. The breakfast program jumped from about 35 meals daily to 350+. In addition, students aren’t the only ones choosing the cafeteria for lunch: Teachers are eating there now too.
Asked about her overall perceptions of the project, Dawn says she had no doubt the equipment would be great. Throughout her career in foodservice, she’s always thought of Vollrath as a brand she could trust for quality, from pans to serving systems. What she’s most grateful for — and what she sees as key to the project’s success — is the ongoing collaboration and communication. “Mike was there every step of the way from design to installation,” she replies. And the result is a space where “everything just goes together.” Judging by the increased meal participation, teachers and students agree.