Food Service

Smoothies for Breakfast

In my last rotation with WVU dining services, I was able to choose a new food item, recipe, or something of the like to implement and write a report on. I decided to provide a smoothie bar during breakfast hours for those students in Evansdale Cafe.  The project included planning, food costing, advertising, implementing, writing a literature review, and writing a 16-page summary of the quality improvement project.  While this was several weeks ago, I thought I’d pass along some of what I came up with, because it was a fun project to be a part of.  The staff at WVU were extremely helpful in every aspect of the project– letting me take creative reigns, printing off customer counts, invoice orders, ordering the food, helping with set-up, tear-down, and even working next to me during the busy 2 hours, running the second blender. I am very grateful that the staff at WVU are so willing to help – they definitely care about their dietetic interns!


            Fruits are an important part of a healthy diet as they contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are beneficial for heart health, digestive health, and more.  However, less than 23% of Americans are consuming the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.1 In fact, a study by Steven E. Shive found that students at a community college have a typical fruit intake of 1.7 servings a day.2 By providing students at WVU with a smoothie bar during breakfast hours, it creates the opportunity for students to increase their fruit intake that day by 1-2 servings.  A smoothie bar was planned and was implemented on Friday, September 28th from 7:30-9:00am and served approximately 80 students.  Students were able to design their own smoothie or choose one of the three smoothies shown on signs with nutrition facts attached.  Peaches, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries could be mixed with vanilla soy milk, 2% milk, orange juice, and yogurt.  Each smoothie took less than a minute to make and the smoothie operation worked well with two employees running the blenders and taking orders.  There were approximately 5.5 labor hours involved and the average food-cost of a smoothie made was $1.165.  Feedback from the students was positive, as many students lined up early, gave positive comments, asked if the smoothie bar was permanent, and were happy to have something different, unique, and nutritious on a weekday morning.  If there is enough staff available to run the smoothie bar, I would recommend keeping it in rotation several times a month.

Signage for Smoothies <– Check out a PDF of the sign I made for the smoothie bar, which explains how to order and shows all the ingredients available.

Smoothie Nutrition Facts <– I analyzed the smoothies for their nutrients and made signs that displayed the nutrition facts for 3 different smoothies — Triple Berry (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry), Peach-Raspberry, and Strawberry-Banana.

Working the smoothie bar on Friday morning. Set-up took about an hour for one employee (me)– thankfully all the food and supplies were organized on carts in the dry storage, walk-in cooler, and walk-in freezer the day before, so set-up in the morning went “smoothly”…haha

Making one of the approximately 80 smoothies we made that day. The first people to get a smoothie at 7:20am were a group of WVU student-athletes who had just finished with an early morning practice.


This project also involved taking into account food safety rules and regulations – dairy products were stored in tubs of ice to keep below 45 degrees F; employees wore hair restraints, aprons, gloves, and properly washed their hands; serving utensils were used; and the smoothie bar was located within 25 feet of a hand-washing station.

The most popular smoothie was the strawberry-banana smoothie. We used about 10 pounds of strawberries that morning and about 35 bananas!



  1. Brown, B.J., & Hermann, J.R. (2005). Cooking classes increase fruit and vegetable intake and food safety behaviors in youth and adults. Journal of Nutrition Education & Behavior, 37(2), 104-105. Retrieved from
  2. Shive, S. E., & Morris, M. N. (2006). Evaluation of the energize your life! social marketing campaign pilot study to increase fruit intake among community college students. Journal of American College Health, 55(1), 33-39.  Retrieved from
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Healthy Snacking for the Visual Learner

This week Roanna and I put the final touches on our student forum project we were assigned this rotation. The idea was to design, set up, advertise for, and implement a student forum held in the dining hall. We chose the topic of “Healthy Snacking” and used portion sizes of real food found in the dining hall as visual aids.  Roanna designed the sign used to advertise the forum, and I made the brochure with the template Mary originally created as a snacking brochure for kids.

Healthy Snacking Brochure PDF

Roanna and I set everything up and were at the table for 2 hours over lunch period in Cafe Evansdale.  During that time, students had the opportunity to see what portion sizes looked like, what healthy (and unhealthy) snack options exist in the dining hall, and could ask any nutrition questions they had.  The highlight of the forum was when a student saw our display of celery and peanut butter and was inspired to get her own celery and peanut butter right then from the dining hall with her lunch.  Ahh, influencing the future generation to eat healthy! 🙂 Feels good.

Here are some pictures we took of our display. We chose the snacks based on what was available in the dining halls, and included nutrition facts (calories, fat, carbs, protein, and fiber) on cards below each item. See if you can distinguish between what the healthy snack options are, and what the unhealthy snack options are. Recognize any of your favorites?

Categories: Education in the Community, Food Service | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Intergenerational Communication in the Workplace

One of my rotation requirements was to conduct an in-service to the food service employees on topic of my choosing.  I chose to present on “Intergenerational Communication in the Workplace” and conducted the in-service last Thursday to several Café Evansdale employees. I chose the topic because I found it to be interesting, as well as relevant to the food service workers at Café Evansdale.  There were all 4 generations (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y) in attendance, which is great.

The 4 different generations grew up in different time periods which played a role in shaping their work ethic, work style, and communication style.  Educating employees on the different generations and what historical and cultural events occurred at different times in America’s history promotes patience and understanding among employees.  The employees in attendance found the 8-10 minute presentation to be entertaining (reminiscing the good old days) and I feel that they will look at their co-workers with more understanding, patience, and acceptance, rather than with misunderstanding and unnecessary frustration.

Here’s a copy of my handout that I made for the presentation. I also posted a copy up in the dining services manager’s office for employees to see and learn from.

Intergenerational Communication in the Workplace PDF

Categories: Current News, Education in the Community, Food Service | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Customer Satisfaction Survey…the results are in!

One of my rotation objectives this week was to come up with a customer satisfaction survey, gather results, and write a summary which includes recommendations for new recipes or new menu ideas based on the results of the customer satisfaction survey. Café Evansdale is a large dining hall with several different “lines” – the grill, pizza & pasta, salad bar, taste of home, demo bar, desserts, and “quenchers” (drinks).  So, in order to narrow the focus of the survey and make more specific recommendations based on the results of the survey, Kathy Curtin (Assistant Director of WVU Dining) suggested I pick one area of the dining hall to use for the survey.  Since I had worked the grill line for lunch period on Wednesday (apron, baseball hat, & all!), I felt I had the best knowledge and experience in that area and therefore geared my survey towards gauging the students’ satisfaction of the grill line.

On Thursday, September 13th from 10:30am-11:30am I handed out the survey to students that were eating lunch in Café Evansdale.   In the health and medical field you never want to “re-invent the wheel”, so I based my survey heavily on the one I found that Harvard dining has used in the past, though a shortened and modified version.  A copy of the survey I used is shown below:

Meal Satisfaction Survey – The Grill 

Your answers and comments will be used to make recommendations such as menu changes, new recipes, and to improve customer satisfaction.

Excellent Good Fair Poor
Overall Satisfaction of   Food
Taste of Food
Food Temperature
Freshness of Food
Menu Variety
Availability of Food
Visual Appeal of Food
Favorite items:
Items you’d like to see added to the grill:
Additional comments/suggestions:

I was able to introduce myself to students seated in the dining area, tell them what the survey was for, and hand out a copy for them to fill out. Within an hour I had received 51 responses which I then used to write a summary and make recommendations for improving the grill line.  Here are some of the results of the survey:

59% of students scored “overall satisfaction” at good or excellent

82% of students scored “Food Availability” at good or excellent

69% of students scored “Menu Variety” at fair or poor

In general, the survey results showed that students are very happy with the food availability, and generally pleased with food temperature, visual appeal, overall satisfaction, freshness, and taste.  However there was a drastic change with menu variety as most students believed the variety of the foods offered on the grill line is fair or poor.  This opened up for discussion of possible improvements on the comment section, and I was eager to read the students’ written responses.

The top 3 favorite items on the grill line were hamburgers, hot dogs, and turkey burgers. All three of these items are offered every day for lunch and dinner, so in my opinion it is best to continue to keep these as staples on the grill line, and in order to increased menu variety, add in other items on the side instead of as a replacement of hamburgers, hot dogs, or turkey burgers.

When students were asked which items they’d like to see added to the grill, the top five responses were:

  1. Grilled chicken
  2. Steak/Philly cheese steak
  3. Seafood (salmon, lobster, shrimp)
  4. Fried mozzarella sticks
  5. Chicken nuggets/tenders

There were also requests for:

  • Corn dogs
  • Shiskabobs
  • More vegetarian options
  • Filet mignon
  • More home cooked foods
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Mexican food (burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, taco bar)
  • Grilled turkey leg/chicken leg
  • Chicken wings (w/ bones, every Friday like they used to have)
  • Pork BBQ
  • Alligator meat
  • Frog legs
  • Cheese-filled burgers
  • Have a short order cook

(Alligator meat? Frog legs?? I’m definitely not in North Dakota anymore!)

Based on the results of this section of the survey, I would recommend a few changes to be made. Firstly, I would start offering a plain grilled chicken breast on the grill every other day, if not every day.  Many students responded they would like more chicken products, including grilled chicken so they could eat it plain or make their own grilled chicken sandwich.  This is especially great for the segment of students are interested in making healthy choices. It is easy to eat healthy in the dining hall if you stick to HealthyU and the salad bar, but beyond that there isn’t much.  Having grilled chicken breast offered frequently would add to the variety of foods that students who are interested in eating healthy can enjoy.

Secondly, I would try to add in a Philly cheese steak sandwich once a week to the grill line (or Taste of Home line), since many students wanted steak or Philly cheese steak sandwiches.  While it would be nice to have steak, lobster, and filet mignon, it’s also expensive to have those items on a regular or even semi-regular basis, so in order to keep meal plan costs down for the students, I wouldn’t recommend having those more expensive meats unless it was for a theme meal during the semester.

I would also recommend incorporating many of the other student requests into the menu rotation for the grill line, like fried mozzarella sticks, corn dogs, shishkabobs, chicken wings, cheese-filled burgers (and maybe cheese-filled hot dogs?), Mexican food, vegetarian options, and grilled turkey legs. These menu items could each be offered once a week or once every other week depending on how the students respond to them and the cost and availability of each particular item.

The “comments” section included a variety of comments ranging from “I really like the food here! 🙂 ” to “put sauce in pumps” to “Kind of hard to eat healthy,” and everything in between.  Based on the results of the comments section, I can see there is a mix of positive and negative comments, as is to be expected.  The dining hall’s market segment is the student population here at WVU.   But students’ tastes and food preferences can greatly vary based on their background, culture, personal preferences, and health concerns.  It can be difficult to please everyone, but I think with a few minor changes the grill line could better meet the needs of all the students.

Interestingly enough, there were requests for more vegetarian options, having grilled cheese sandwiches, and putting a menu up at the grill- all of which are currently being done. There are garden burgers and black bean burgers offered by request each day, but perhaps this is not being marketed and advertised as well as it could be.  Larger menu signage in a different, more obvious location would be beneficial to students who would like a larger variety of food, more vegetarian options, and students who would like a short-order cook (as the alternative burgers are made when requested).  Additionally, students can order a grilled cheese sandwich at the sandwich deli line, and an employee will make them a fresh grilled cheese sandwich with the bread and cheese of their choice with the Panini maker behind the deli line. Perhaps it would be beneficial to put up a small half-sheet laminated sign that reminds students they can order a fresh grilled cheese sandwich.

I also think that putting sauce in pumps would be a great idea. This type of dispenser would be easier for students to use than reaching under a sneeze guard to grab a ladle of barbecue sauce for their burger.  If there is counter space for dispensers for the hot sauce, A1 sauce, barbecue sauce, ranch, and other dressings, this would create a cleaner serving line, keep the sauces separated (no cross-contamination of one sauce dripping into another sauce), and I believe it would speed up the serving line because it is quicker to pump sauce onto your plate than it is to scoop it onto your plate with a serving spoon.

So in conclusion, my recommendations for the grill line at WVU include:

1. Add plain, grilled chicken breast to grill line at least 3-5 days a week

2. Rotate in Philly cheese steak, fried mozzarella sticks, corn dogs, shishkabobs, chicken wings, cheese-filled burgers, Mexican food, more vegetarian options, and grilled turkey legs once a week or every other week, based on students’ responses (in order to meet student’s need for increased menu variety)

3. Better advertising for daily availability of garden burgers, black bean burgers, salmon burgers, and grilled cheese sandwiches

4. Put grill menu/menu cycle in more prominent place for students to see

5. Store sauces/condiments in pumps rather than in hotel pans with ladles

I think this was a beneficial project and rotation objective. I submitted my recommendations and summary to the appropriate people, and I look forward to seeing what type of follow-ups are made, if any, based on this sample survey.  I also look forward to seeing what areas of the dining hall the other interns survey. I’d like to know how the students at WVU feel about the other lines, like the salad bar line and taste of home line (though I personally believe the salad bar line is near perfect!!).

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Food Specifications

Any food service establishment will have to specify their order of foods. That is, they provide a specification: a detailed list of the desired characteristics in a product that will be used for a specific purpose.  It serves as a quality or cost control standard, helps avoid misunderstandings, allows someone to fill in, in buyer’s absence, and is essential for the bidding process.

The specification information is based on the company goals and policies, time and money available, production system used, storage facilities, employee skill level, menu requirements, menu prices/budget limitations, and service style.

A food specification can include the name of a product, quality, intended use, grade, product form (whole, julienne, diced, coin), size, color, degree of ripeness, geographical location, and packaging.

Del Monte Lite Sliced Peaches — Yellow Cling Peaches in Extra Light Syrup

For canned fruits or vegetables, let’s use the example of canned peaches I found in Mary‘s kitchen cabinet…federal regulations require that the following information is labeled on a can or package of fruit or vegetables:

  • Name (yellow cling peaches)
  • Pack style/form (sliced) unless visible through container
  • Liquid in which its packed (extra light syrup)
  • Total contents/net weight (15 oz/425 g)
  • Ingredients (peaches, water, sugar)
  • Any special type of treatment (none here)
  • Cannery’s or distributor’s address (distributed by Del Monte Foods, San Fransisco, CA 94105)
  • Nutritional information (1/2 cup serving size, 3.5 servings per can, 10 mg sodium, 15 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 14 g sugar, 6% DV Vitamin A, 8% DV Vitamin C, 2% DV Iron)

Nutrition information, ingredients, distributor address, serving suggestions, recipes, etc

It may also give the grade or quality, count, size, maturity of vegetable, cooking directions, serving ideas, or recipes.

“For a quick snack or light meal, serve over yogurt, cottage cheese, or frozen yogurt”

“For a delicious smoothie, blend 1 can of undrained Lite Sliced Peaches with 1-cup low-fat vanilla yogurt and 8 ice cubes”

“For added refreshment, try chilled”

“Find great recipes at;

(I found this shrimp pasta salad recipe on their website…yum!)

“Refrigerate any unused portion in a separate, covered container”

The packaging medium can be water, juice, syrup, salt, or brine.  Brine is typically used for sauerkraut, olives, and roasted red peppers. You’ll see vegetables such as peas and green beans packaged in salt.  And syrup is defined as “degrees brix” or “% sugar”.

Brix readings:

  • Extra heavy: 35-40% sugar
  • Heavy: 26-30% sugar
  • Medium: 21-25% sugar
  • Light: 16-20% sugar
  • Slightly Sweetened: <16% sugar

Canned Fruits & Vegetable Grades:

The USDA has established federal grades as measures of quality for canned and frozen fruits and vegetables.  The grade depends on the color, ripeness, uniformity in size, tenderness, appearance, and flavor.  Grade A is the highest quality, followed by grade B, grade C, and substandard.

The idea is to purchase for your intended use. If color and ripeness and quality is of high importance to a dish, then go with grade A.  For general use, grade B works well.  Grade C may be ordered when the fruit or vegetable is going to be used in a casserole or stew. If the product is going to be chopped up, cooked, and disguised, then there’s no need to purchase a grade A or B when C will do just fine.  Grade A is given when a product receives a score of 90+, B when 80-89, C when 70-79, and “substandard” when 70 or below. A highly trained specialist from the USDA will inspect the product and give the product a score and grade, which is a service that the company must pay for.  (Interestingly enough, I couldn’t find the grade or score information on the Del Monte peaches can or the website. I called Del Monte and the representative on the other line didn’t know as well, so they took my information and said they’d call me when they found out. *update* I am told the grade information from Del Monte is not allowed to be given to the public. It’s for “proprietary” use only. I was also asked why I asked for the information.  Sounds pretty suspicious, and I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong by inquiring as to the quality of the food they sell to the public.  Strange!)

When specifying food for a food service establishment, you have to take many things into consideration. If you want peaches, do you want freestone or cling peaches? Do you have staff skilled enough to dice the peaches, or should you buy them diced? Do you have cooler, freezer, or dry storage space available? What recipes are you using the peaches for, or are you simply spooning them out into a hotel pan for the salad bar line? Do you want them in heavy syrup or a light syrup? In 15 oz cans or #10 cans?  These are all questions a manager, buyer, owner, or production personnel must ask themselves when ordering a food item or creating a food specification.

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