Cafeteria introduces new lunch pre-ordering system

Students enjoy their lunches in the socially-distanced cafeteria. (Photo by Isabella McCutcheon)

The LHS Dining Services has officially opened up their new pre-ordering system, allowing students to place their lunch orders before their lunch period. 

“We are one of the first district’s in the nation to do this,” Venezia said. “We are really very lucky.”

Director of Dining Services Amanda Venezia had the vision of making it easier for students to have a school lunch completely to their own taste, while simultaneously doing so as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

This new system recently put in place has made Venezia’s visions become a reality. 

Pre-ordering is completed through the Nutrislice app. Once you enter your school into the app, there are two types of meals available, a sub option or a salad option. Each meal is completely customizable, along with including your choice of grain, beverage and fruit.

“It is all very easy to use and you can literally order your lunch exactly the way you want it in a matter of seconds,” Venezia said. “Then, all there is left to do is pick up your food when it’s lunch time.”

Orders are due by 9 a.m. every morning, giving the kitchen staff plenty of time to prep the meals and store them until lunch time. 

There are a wide variety of ways students can personalize their meals, ensuring no one is having to eat the same, boring combination every single day.

“To put it in perspective, there are around 432,000 ways to customize a sub meal alone,” Venezia said. “It is so simple for everybody to choose exactly what they want.”

Eventually, Venezia aims to include a hot lunch option on the pre-order menu which would change constantly. However, the current option is only available a few times per week.

“We will be adding [the hot lunch option] sporadically, maybe once or twice a week to start,” Venezia said. 

The hot lunch options will also be completely customizable for students, just like the salad and sub options.

“For instance, we could have something like an Asian bowl or a burrito for a hot lunch, and kids can pick whatever toppings they want, just like if you were to go somewhere like a Chipotle,” Venezia said.

That being said, the hot lunch is not yet a permanent daily option but hopefully will be in the future.

Besides having ample options for customization, the pre-order meals have been approved to be completely free for all students until June 30, 2020. 

“It literally costs nothing to try it out,” Venezia said. “Eventually a cost may be added, but nothing is confirmed yet.”

Before launching the program, Venezia wanted to test things out to make sure everything would run smoothly. Therefore, the system was opened to a portion of students as an experiment . 

“We sent an email out to parents about [the new system] and had about thirty kids sign up to try it out,” Venezia said. “We are excited to open it up to everyone.”

Assistant Principal Stephen Secor has been using the system along with his own kids in the district. Overall, Secor has been impressed with the system.

“I usually get a customized salad, and they have been really great so far,” Secor said. “It’s a great system, there’s a ton of options and it is really convenient. My own kids really love [the ordering system], and I see around 15-20 kids in each lunch period with those lunches. It seems like people are liking it.”

So far, Venezia and other dining staff have also felt the pre-ordering system has been a success. 

“We have the time and the talent on staff to make it all happen, and we have all worked extremely hard to have everything come together,” Venezia said. 

Although Venezia expects the success of the new system to continue once it is school-wide, she doesn’t plan to stop the renovations to the cafeteria. Eventually, she hopes to have the pre-ordering system be linked to something similar to an Amazon locker system.

“We would basically have a huge safe with a ton of smaller safes inside it. You would punch in your ID on a PIN pad, and then the locker with your meal in it would pop open,” Venezia said. “The time we could actually get this is to be determined, but I have already started working with a developer on the software.”

Although this is just the beginning of the new pre-ordering system, Venezia and her staff look forward to implementing new ideas to improve the district’s dining services in the future. 

“I stay in touch with new technology, and we are fearless when it comes to trying things out,” Venezia said. “I am lucky enough to be able to have crazy ideas and they won’t laugh me out of the kitchen.”

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