Alternate Hot and Cold Lunches Give School Meal Program Production Predictability - CulinArt Group

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Alternate Hot and Cold Lunches Give School Meal Program Production Predictability

As published in Food Management, April 7, 2021 – CulinArt meal program at the Cambridge School has adapted to COVID-19 restrictions with packaged meals, safe dining spaces and an innovative alternating lunch system that reduces waste and production uncertainty.

Tony Penezic runs the CulinArt-operated meal program at the Cambridge School, a private boarding/day school in Weston, Mass., with some 300 students that is now conducting in-person classes. At a time when meal programs face uncertainty about participation from day to day because of hybrid schedules, meal pickup inconsistencies and differing demand for various items, Penezic has some production certainty thanks to a program he developed at the start of the current school year.

The approach is simple—his kitchen prepares about the same number of hot lunches and cold lunches each day and students are divided into two groups, with one group getting the hot lunch on Mondays and Thursdays and a cold lunch on Tuesdays and Fridays, while the other group follows the opposite schedule, with the groups and offerings alternating on Wednesdays—a virtual instruction day—every week.

“It’s easy planning,” Penezic offers. “We know we have to make the 130 to 140 lunch boxes one day and about the same number of hot lunches, and then it switches the next day.”

The system allows not only production efficiency for the staff and reduces waste but also has found favor with the customers. “It gives students the opportunity to all get the same foods, just not at the same time,” Penezic explains, conceding that “it’s not something we would ordinarily do.”

There is little excess as a consequence of the predictable production, mostly due to a few kids not wanting lunch that day, but that is fairly minimal.

The hot lunch consists of a hot entrée plus sides while the cold lunch is a variety of grab-and-go sandwiches and salads. All the lunch items are served packaged for take away and are eaten outside the dining hall.

The 2020-2021 school started slowly at Cambridge School, with some three dozen boarding students coming back at the end of August, along with about the same number of faculty and staff. They began the year with about three weeks of virtual classes before the rest of the student body—about 300 kids—was called back for mostly full-time in-person instruction.

The alternating hot and cold item system is only used at lunchtime, when day students are present. Resident students eat their breakfasts and dinners in the dining hall with Plexiglas barriers separating them at tables, which are each limited to two seats.

Breakfasts and dinners always include a hot option with everything served by staff in to-go containers, unlike the pre-COVID era, when self-serve bars were the standard approach.

Penezic has been with CulinArt, a private school lunch service, and its parent company Compass Group for five years, having previously served in college and independent school meal programs with a couple of other management companies.

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  • April 8, 2021
Corporate News


What our clients are saying

“What a wonderful dinner we had tonight for our international families. The food was delicious and well presented as well.”

“Thank you for including me today in the food waste demonstration/[chef competition] and flattering me with the role of “judge.” I will proudly don the [Stop Food Waste Day] apron the next time I plan an “event” in our own kitchen. I think this is a very worthwhile cause and the statistics you read off are staggering. They, alone, can intimidate a home chef, let alone be the “driver’ for a professional one.”

“Thank you and your staff for all the care and thought you give CSW adults and students. You approach events with such care and elegance- I don’t know how you do it! Especially day after day. Please thank all your staff for their wonderful work and kind manner with all of us. Here is to a great year!”

“Many, and I do mean many, thanks for a great Parents Weekend.  I heard from so many happy parents and you all work very hard to make it happen.  In gratitude and kindness…”

“We are so thankful and so impressed by your immediate attention to our power outage. It was such a relief to see all the equipment and workers coming in within a few hours of the outage. Thank you for serving dinner to all [the] students in a very difficult circumstance. Please extend our thanks to your workers who braved cold weather to grill hamburgers and hotdogs.”

“With all the prep work from Winterim ramping up and classes continuing as usual, it's a busy time to be a Forman teacher. Imagine my delight, tired as I was, when I delved into the upscale-restaurant-quality chicken parmesan our dining hall served last night. Forman is all about support, and providing our students with a dinner of that quality is just as important a measure of support as anything that happens in a classroom.”

“I can’t thank your entire team enough for the outstanding service, food, displays, everything!  You are a master at detail, and because of that Adam and I were able to focus on the parents.  I know what a sacrifice pulling off a weekend like this means, we are so appreciative and grateful to you all for your talent and generosity.”

“I ALWAYS feel spoiled by the meal offerings at CSW (The Cambridge School of Weston) and am entirely grateful for it. As I eat today's delicious and lavish lunch (and think about yesterday's as well), I can't tell you how much I feel so well cared for here, both with the food and by the dining hall staff. CSW cares for us in so many ways, both big and small.”

“Thank You! Chef Budd [and team], you overcame a new online ordering system (and hundreds of labels daily!), provided creative and healthy menus, continued to connect with local farmers to incorporate locally sourced ingredients, and worked tirelessly to serve the school community on three campuses.  While it feels like you are all a little like the Wizard of Oz right now, working behind a curtain in a kitchen far away, we sense your smiles and your passion to deliver the best possible service during these trying times. We are all so grateful!”

“I will say that CulinArt has always been a very collaborative partner to T. Rowe Price, listening to our current needs and future goals and suggesting realistic and achievable strategies to meet those goals.  2020 was obviously no exception.  CulinArt also altered other areas of our OCS and pantry programs to create safer environments for all our associates. We can only thank you for your continued flexibility and innovative ideas through these difficult times.”

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