The school canteen has to adapt to all ages and cultures

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From nursery to university, children and students have different needs and tastes. Time spent at the table varies around the world, but the school canteen is for all a place to grow up and learn. For the new school year 2016, Elior has adapted its school catering solutions to suit the ages and culture diversity of 1.5m guests dining in 8,700 school canteens across Europe and the United States. To strike a nutritional balance for students and teachers, Elior has introduced new concepts and services in line with market trends: culinary discoveries, local produce and digital innovation.

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Children lunching at the school canteen have different tastes: in Spain, kids go wild about macaroni with tomato sauce, while in the United States, they prefer nuggets, pasta and pizzas. In France, grated carrots and shepherd’s pie are all-time favorites, pizza is “queen” in Italy, and the most popular meal-time dish in the UK is roast chicken. Elior has therefore designed a made-to-measure catering offering tailored to the nutritional needs of each age group and the cultural specificities of each country.

 

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Children lunching at the school canteen do not spend the same amount of time around the table. Because the length of the lunch break varies from country to country, Elior canteens adapt meal times to the rhythm of each type of school. Depending on the cultural traditions and the length of time devoted to the meal during the break, the number of items on the tray varies between countries, ranging from two in the UK to five in France.

All children are naturally inquisitive and want to become autonomous. Elior pays particular attention to raising children’s awareness, as well as the development of their taste and autonomy. To ensure the nutritional balance of all meals cooked by our chefs, Elior dieticians are involved in the preparation and certification of all recipes, and organize tasting events in canteens to teach children and adolescents how to eat well and to discover new types of food and tastes. In Italy, Elior canteens have developed a back-to-school concept called “from garden to fork” designed to help children discover the various food-preparation stages from field to canteen: visits to markets, kitchen workshops, food tasting and taste initiation events are planned during the school year.

Teaching children to help themselves and avoid wasting food is also essential. Preferred Meals, an Elior North America brand name, has notably introduced a new concept called Serve & Learn Smart Line. This self-service restaurant allows for both flexibility and autonomy by offering products by category and color code, as well as simple, educational messages to help children quickly understand the various food families and, thus, put together a balanced meal themselves. In France, “chasses au gaspi” or cut down on waste edutainments are organized to help children grasp how much bread and water is wasted daily in the canteen. In five years, 600,000 children have thus been made aware, leading to a 20-30% reduction in waste.

Parents can stay informed in real time about their children’s school meals. In Spain, Serunión has developed a mobile site, Educa, enabling parents to consult menus and the latest news about their children’s restaurant as well as order and pay the canteen on line. In France, the bon’App application introduced in 2014 has more than 100,000 users in schools and is now available in nursery canteens managed by Elior.

Rapid, easy-to-use smart-phone services are particularly popular with students. Elior UK has concluded a partnership agreement with the Yoyo Wallet application which allows university students to order their meals in advance and pay by mobile phone, have access to a loyalty program and obtain savings coupons and bargains