Pre-order lunch system implemented as student numbers dwindle


Brian Lee

AVI Food Services turned to a pre-ordering lunch system this past week in response to the dwindling number of students attending in-person classes at Villa Maria Academy and Cathedral Prep. Directed by higher corporate powers, Chef Hale has begun asking students to order their meals the week prior in order to anticipate who will be choosing to buy.

“There are several schools that AVI has that have gone to a pre-order system,” said Hale. “It’s not just Villa Maria Academy and Prep.”

Although the AVI Team predicted prior to the start of the school year that nearly half of the student body may not be present for them to feed, unexpectedly low student order numbers of 75 have been recorded in the past week.

“It’s just not a practical application to have the food as we did in the past,” Hale said. “More students are choosing to do the remote learning instead of coming into school.”

Students order their lunches via an online link Chef Hale emails out a week before their orders will be served. A form then loads in which students enter their grade level, campus name, lunch period, and assigned color day that they attend school on (Orange/Black or Blue/White).

“There are several categories that you have to fill out,” said Hale. “Each day you’re picking an item or indicating that you aren’t attending school that day.”

Chef Hale reports that the new system has assisted in avoiding certain problems such as food waste and overstaffing but presents some new obstacles where students are simply not ordering their lunches or glitches are occurring in the online form. As a result, some students are having to wait for Chef Hale to make them food on the day of their lunch and may have issues with finishing their meals on time.

“You get 20 minutes,” Hale said. “Essentially, it will probably take me 10 minutes to make you something. Okay, now you’ve got ten minutes left to eat. With the guys, though, we tend to wolf down our food, so it doesn’t present too much of a problem.”

Some students who do receive their lunches, however, demonstrate a level of dissatisfaction with the new quality. Lucas Mitchell, a senior at Cathedral Prep and regular lunch-buyer, spoke especially of his preference for fresh food while understanding AVI’s necessary course of action.

“I mean it makes sense because they’re probably losing so much money from no one buying lunches anymore,” Lucas said. “If we could do [the online ordering system] but it was fresh food, it would be better than buying lunch normally, but because it’s boxed and pre-cooked and all soggy and stuff, it’s bad. I honestly like this system better, but I wish it were fresher.”

Besides the actual freshness of his lunch, Lucas also enjoys watching the staff prepare dishes such as the Agave Bowl right in front of him and offers an alternative design to the previously prepared food system.

“I like when they mix the stuff in front of you,” Lucas said. “I think it would be fine pre-boxed if it was food like chicken tenders, burgers, or fries and you already know what you’re getting, but if it were something like the bowls, I would rather want to tell them what to put on it.”

Chef Hale looks forward to when students will be back in the school and AVI will truly be able to provide meals and beverages to students the way in which they are equipped to do so.

“Because the COVID vaccine is just coming out, I’m thinking it will be next fall until we are back to some normal capacity,” Hale said. “If more students start to come back next year, we’ll change to a different system again, but until then we will just have to continue adapting.”