Building a Thriving Culture Around Nutrition Just Got Easier Thanks to Whitsons’ Cafe Connections

Posted on November 10, 2021

Districts realize that school nutrition programs are complex, but that complexity has compounded throughout 2020 and 2021.

Retaining personnel resources in the kitchen is one of the most overlooked aspect of many school nutrition programs. You’ve invested in recruiting and training – it pays to focus on retaining this talent as well.

How do you build a strong culture?


Proven Methods to Ensure Your New Talent Sticks Around

  1. Flexibility Meets Accountability.
    Structure kitchens and service plans that allow for flexible work schedules for workers. Flexibility greatly broadens your labor pool to begin with, but also helps to ensure they’ll stick around.

    A lack of flexibility is one of the leading reasons people leave their jobs. But this is a two-way street. Flexibility is a great perk, but you’ll want to stabilize this with a reliable schedule that holds employees accountable as well.

  2. Hire With A Culinary Focus.
    Building the right culture, believe it or not, is critical for a top-rated nutrition program. At Whitsons, for instance, we foster an environment that focuses on developing culinary and kitchen skills, not just performing repetitive tasks. This, in turn, drives opportunities for team members outside of schools in the larger food service industry.

    By working with Whitsons, team members gain a stronger understanding of kitchen experience to build into a career, not just a job. This upward momentum propels their interest and commitment, especially when paired with the right development and mentorship opportunities specifically designed for the school food service industry.

  3. Inclusion Breeds Dependability.
    If your team feels like they are a part of the process, rather than just a piece of the puzzle, they’re much more likely to stick around and contribute in more meaningful ways. Most work environments don’t purposefully exclude personnel, but it’s easy to ‘not be heard’ as an employee if the communication lines are blurred.

    Our experience has taught us that it’s incredibly important to create a safe and convenient feedback loop amongst all ranks of personnel. This fosters rapid knowledge sharing for improving the student experience, while creating a sense of pride and ownership for the team member experience.

That’s when we decided to create a resource to directly serve this opportunity.


How Does Café Connections Improve Communication?

One of Whitsons’ key promises is to “Nurture Authentic Communication” by establishing open lines of communication. Effective communication is the backbone of any successful organization, and improving communication in the workplace keeps business running smoothly and advances team member relationships, which contributes to less turnover and higher retention.

Café Connections, an internal messaging system that significantly changes how we connect with our team members.

“This new technology is a state-of-the-art product we developed to replace traditional internal bulletin boards, memos and posters with a high-impact visual messaging system,” said Kelly Friend, Whitsons’ Chief Operating Office for Contract Management. “By streamlining our internal communications, Whitsons can also keep our teams up to date more efficiently and bring our customers the latest and greatest service options faster.”

Café Connections also maintains our branding and messaging while allowing location level access, where managers can create personalized messages geared towards their own teams. Unique customizable widgets, including real-time Twitter feeds, news updates, local weather, clocks and more, are also part of the platform.

The impact such a tool has serves to improve team member retention, creating far less unanticipated disruptions in an already chaotic school year.

“As we continue to build upon our commitment to community engagement, having a resource like Café Connections will enable us to engage our onsite team members by keeping them apprised of corporate notices and announcements, our latest videos, training materials, events and celebrations, team member recognition and much more,” says Bill Whitcomb, Jr., VP of Customer Experience.

Whitsons is phasing the new Café Connections system to school locations beginning in Fall 2021.

Whether you manage your own nutrition program or work with a vendor, if you’re experiencing employee shortages, consider these best practices to minimize your headaches.

If you have questions about any of these strategies or wish to speak with a Whitsons expert about implementing the right partner for your school nutrition program, contact us here.