Closeup of new cafeteria serving line
Operator's side of new cafeteria serving line
New cafeteria serving lines
New cafeteria serving line and display cases
Operator's side of new cafeteria serving line
Resources | Case Studies | K-12 Foodservice Case Studies | The Villages Charter School Cafeteria Remodel

The Villages Charter School Cafeteria Remodel

Sumter County, Florida

In the busy hallways of The Villages Charter School in Florida, student life often centers around a central space: the cafeteria. Yet, for years, this hub faced a battle against cramped quarters and aging equipment. Led by Executive Chef Jason Poplaski, in collaboration with Jim Richards, Jr. of PES Design Group and Alex Gonzalez with Eaton Marketing, a transformative journey unfolded to breathe new life into the heart of the school’s dining experience.

Tackling space constraints and outdated infrastructure

Before the remodel, the school’s cafeteria faced significant challenges due to limited space and outdated equipment. “Our old high school was not built for the number of students we’re trying to serve,” Chef Poplaski reflected. “We needed to optimize space and upgrade equipment to meet the growing demand.” With a clear vision for improvement, a goal was set out to conquer these obstacles and create a more streamlined, student-friendly environment.

Collaborative design: crafting solutions for efficiency

In collaboration, the project team outlined specific design goals to modernize the cafeteria while effectively addressing operational needs. “We worked closely to ensure every aspect of the redesign contributed to improved efficiency and functionality,” Chef Poplaski noted. Throughout the process, adjustments were made to ensure alignment with practical considerations, ensuring the final design seamlessly integrated innovation with practicality.

Maximizing space

One of the most noticeable outcomes of the cafeteria renovation was the significant increase in operational productivity. “It’s amazing the number of kids we can get through in such a short amount of time,” Chef Poplaski exclaimed. With the implementation of streamlined processes and optimized layouts, the cafeteria now effortlessly accommodates the influx of students during lunchtime. “We do two lunches, with about 600 kids coming in at once, and we’re getting them through in under 10 minutes,” Chef Poplaski stated.

Expanding menu offerings

Additionally, the cafeteria’s menu offerings underwent a substantial transformation. “We have more than 28 menu items at our high school daily,” Chef Poplaski explained. This expanded menu, comprising both hot and cold options, reflects the diverse preferences of the student body.

Furthermore, the redesigned facility provided ample space to introduce fresh fruit and vegetable offerings, catering to students’ growing interest in healthier food choices. “We’ve been able to expand our offerings and provide sides the kids really enjoy,” Chef Poplaski noted. Installing LTI’s QuickSwitch hot-cold wells further improved the efficiency of food service operations, ensuring optimal temperatures for freshly prepared meals.

Impact and feedback

With the completion of the cafeteria renovation, students experienced a noticeable difference in their dining environment. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Students appreciate the improved flow and the expanded menu offerings. As students moved through the space with newfound ease, they were greeted by a diverse selection of culinary options, further enhancing their dining experience.

Chef Poplaski said, “Before, a lot of our high schoolers simply wouldn’t eat because they didn’t want to navigate through the crowds. Now, with the space being more spread out and open, they feel they can easily access what they need and get through the line — that’s been a significant improvement for our students.”

The team at The Villages Charter School is committed to sustaining this success, ready to adapt alongside the evolving needs of the school community. With each meal served, the legacy of the cafeteria remodel enriches the educational experience for future generations of students.