While I can never have too much fun in the sun and time with family, it’s time to start trading in those pool days for school days! It’s time to start kicking your school nutrition operation into high gear.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you would approach this situation with a trusty checklist. It just so happens that I have one you might find useful!
We’ve solved a lot of customer problems over the years, and through that experience have put together this list of things to remember when reopening your cafeteria for the new school year.
Tip 1: Turn on your Point of Sale early.
I don’t mean early as on the first day of school. I mean at least a week before those little kiddos start roaming the hallways. Turning on your POS machines early allows enough time for the data transfer to complete. Your machines may need software updates, and they’ll definitely need to be loaded with the updated student information. In this case, its better to be a little over prepared than scrambling at the last minute!
Tip 1.5: While you’re getting all your POS stations fired up, haul out the rest of your tech toys and make sure they are all in good working order as well. You will want to test anything your operation uses during a normal serving period, such as barcode scanners, pin pads, tablets, and satellite serving stations. Make sure that all those devices are charged, connected, and paired with their corresponding station, site, and license.
Tip 2: Get your student data rollover out of the way.
Most school districts will complete their data rollover during the month of July, but in case your district hasn’t already done so, be sure to get that done ASAP. It’s one of my top recommendations.
Your data rollover affects so many facets of your school nutrition operation. For example, I’m betting that you’re already processing free and reduced applications. But if you haven’t done your rollover yet, and you go to print out approval notices, they will still have the previous year’s information attached to the student. Cue parent panic (“Oh no, my kid failed!”) and lots of phone calls which your department has to deal with. Do yourself a favor, and make that rollover happen!
Tip 2.5: While we’re on the subject of approval letters, be sure to update the letter templates within your database to reflect the current prices. You wouldn’t want to be sending letters with faulty information in them to parents!
Tip 3: First week lunch lines are always slow. Don’t help make them slower.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “Of course not! We would never do that.” But during those first few weeks back, we all have to deal with lots of changes. Sure, some slow downs are inevitable. Some children, especially the Pre-K, Kindergarten, and Elementary aged kids may have forgotten their lunch number over the summer. Some children are brand new to the school and therefore don’t know how the food service operation runs. Those are understandable slows.
However, unnecessary and preventable slows are something you can help your district avoid. Let’s look at this fictitious scenario to help illustrate my point. Assume your district changes to a new ID system over the summer, but fails to inform the students ahead of time. In the past, students had to memorize both an ID number and a separate lunch pin number. Now, unbeknownst to the students, they will only need to remember one number – their student ID number. While in the long run, this change will surely make things easier, it may cause some confusion in the near term. Children will be used to entering their lunch pin instead of their student ID number, and since the lunch pin will now be invalid, the flow through the lunch line will inevitably be slow.
Tip 4: Don’t miss your opportunity! Set your grace period before July 31st!
Remembering to set your grace period for student eligibility benefits can be a tough one. The deadline to complete this task is before some districts even come back from summer break – July 31st. It is important that you make that deadline, so children can retain their eligibility status for 30 serving days into the new school year. (If you’re lucky enough to be a PrimeroEdge customer, we’ll remind you if the deadline is looming, and you haven’t set it!)
While there are many other worthy back-to-school tips that I could have listed, these stuck out as the most valuable to remember for your school nutrition program.
Get involved in the conversation! Let me know if there’s something in particular that your district does when preparing for a new school year.