School canteens often struggle with volunteer shortages, long hours taken up by stock take and accounts, and inaccuracies with cash transactions which can mean big issues with audit control.
However, it also means that canteen staff have less time to spend on what should be their main focus – creating healthy meals for children.
One service that aims to change all of this is Our Online Canteen, which provides an online platform for parents to order direct to their school canteens from the comfort of their home.
The service allows canteen managers a ‘virtual volunteer’ who automatically tallies orders, counts money, and keeps track of stock at the click of a button, saving time and money.
Another service is Metro Canteens, which specialises in providing canteen services that it says results in higher profits for the school. This company, which employs and trains canteen staff, provides children with what it calls “an interesting and nutritious variety of food choices”.
The Australian Schools Canteen Association (ASCA), a not-for-profit organisation of over 3,000 schools, similarly provides training and supply options for school canteens.
While these options are touted as cost-effective canteen services for schools, Our Online Canteen – which has over 500 participating schools – says principals stand to increase their school’s profits by 35% by using its services.
Our Online Canteen’s director, Teisha Hough, told The Educator
that 75% of parents prefer not to give their kids canteen money, citing a lack of disposable cash.
“The main reason for parents not wanting to give their kids cash is that they don’t have as much cash lying around,” Hough told The Educator
, adding that bullying was also a factor.
“Another reason is that parents are not walking their kids into the school anymore as they are working more. This has an effect on the sale in the canteen and the volunteers into the school.”
Hough said principals should understand that the canteen can generate significant income for their school and is not supported by education budgets or day-to-day education needs.
“They don't have time to support and manage it should things go wrong, so the introduction of a new system that effects the whole school and managing of parents can be a huge hesitation,” Hough said.
“One thing Our Online Canteen has been able to do is understand this. Every one of our schools has their own account manager to help with all the day to day running - taking the stress off the implementation.”
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