DOBSON — A sign of changes in education was emphasized at the annual Surry County Schools’ Child Nutrition Employee Training Conference in the Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology.
In the past, students were treated as a captive audience for in-school nutrition programs. This is no longer true.
“We don’t want to hold them captive,” said Surry County Nutritional Services Director Sherri Parks. “We want to captivate them with great customer service. This is very important to us.”
Parks explained that part of nutritional employees culture is that their job is not just serving but the act of service to children. She said the economic necessity of reaching students as customers is also crucial to keeping cafeteria budgets in the black.
“That’s what we are here for. We do a good job but we want to take it to the next level and do things in a different way,” Parks said.
Schools superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves told the group it takes every employee to make the school system run and said one example of what they have accomplished was in a recent graduation rate report where East Surry High School had improved from 86 percent to 98 percent and noted the Surry Early College had a 100 percent rate.
“When I asked the East Surry cafeteria staff about this they all said it was because of the food,” Reeves said. “The good graduation rate is due to the help of everyone in grades K-12. Our students have been out for three months and families in our county continue to struggle. Many (students) look forward to coming back to school for that warm, nutritious meal. Feel good about what you do, how you do it and who you do it for.”
The keynote speaker was Chick-fil-A owner and operator Chad Tidd, who said one important component of the chain’s approach to customers is to put service above self and helping parents and children develop a relationship with the restaurant.
“I was a huge fan of school lunch,” said Tidd. “One thing I enjoy about being a Chick-fil-A operator is that I get to connect to the community.” He then quoted restaurant founder S. Truett Cathy’s motto that food is essential to life and therefore make it good.
Tidd said for the workers to be freed up for better customer service they must learn to do the basics of their business.
“You have to get consistent, to get it right and when that comes naturally it will free you up to do more,” Tidd said. “One of the most exciting things I get to do every day is to get to know my guests. We have to entrust our business to staff, to people like you. Many of my staff may struggle in personal lives but an environment of hospitality has them smiling at work. If you have a culture of going the second mile for each other that allows you to go above and beyond your’s student’s expectations.”
He said that a focus on good quality, high participation, consistency, following and updating recipes and teaching staff to work quicker and smarter is key to success.
“I know this sounds basic but the secret is I’ve got to know they (employees) know what is expected of them and I’ve provided them with adequate resources to do this.” He then told them about the “core four” concepts used by the restaurant. These four basic rules are for workers to create eye contact to set the tone, share a smile, speak enthusiastically and stay connected with guests.
Other activities at the at the workshop included workplace safety and cashier training and a yogurt parfait challenge.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.