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Webinar Slides Presentation

Check out the full presentation of slides from the webinar. We discussed menu optimization, maximizing profitability, school food innovation and more!

Bonus Content: Remember Your Financial Fitness

Bonus Content: Waste Analysis

Bonus Content: Culture and Community

Full Webinar Transcript

Laura Thompson: (02:00)
Today we’re going to be covering financial fitness, and I’m really excited for this topic. It’s something we visited about four years ago. Maureen and Lynn did a Financial Fitness course that is up on our website that was about 90 minutes of material. So if you want to refer back to that, we’ll be posting that link in the chat. This is an updated version that is specific to what’s going on now, and we’re hoping we can be able to provide some help and offer value to you today. My name is Laura Thompson. I’m the Marketing Manager here at Health-e Pro, where we do menu planning and nutrient analysis software. As far as an overview of today, we’re going to do introductions. I’m going to introduce Maureen and Lynn, and then we’re going to be talking about these topics here.

Laura Thompson: (02:47)
We’re going to leave some time at the end for a Q&A. I know as many of you registered for this webinar, you submitted questions and there were definite themes amongst those questions. So we’ll be covering those today as well as any other questions you have today. So if you do have questions specific for Maureen or Lynn, please feel free to put them in the Q&A box at the bottom. This session will be recorded, so if you have to step away or if you want to pass along to a friend or a colleague this will be made available to you. We’re hoping to send the email out to tomorrow with that information, as well as the slides and some other bonus content resources that we are really excited to share with you.

Laura Thompson: (03:24)
As far as introductions, we have Maureen Pisanick, who is one of our favorite people that we work with here at Health-e Pro. She is the President and Chief Nutrition Officer at Pisanick Partners. She has spent over 20 years in Child Nutrition, 12 of those years as a consultant to food service professionals and eight years as a food service director. Her favorite fitness activity is yoga, which I saw a few of you mentioned in the chat. And her favorite financial fitness activity is Key Performance Indicator Monitoring. So when we’ve done some webinars in the past when we’ve talked about KPIs, we’ve had some people ask, what is a KPI? And so Maureen is going to be discussing that a little bit today, and I know she had some experience even earlier today of covering these bases, and she’ll be able to share some of that as well. We also have Lynn Shavinsky, who is a Regional Sales Manager here at Health-e Pro, who has spent 16 years as a Food Service Director in three states. She has absolutely been in your shoes as well. And she has been here at Health-e Pro for over 11 years now. Her favorite fitness activity is Pilates, which I saw some people mention in the chat as well. And her favorite financial fitness activity is menu optimization. So with that, I turn it over to Maureen to go ahead and get started.

Maureen Pisanick: (04:36)
Hello, everyone. Thank you so much, Health-e Pro. You’re my favorite too. Obviously working out together is better together, right? I am here today with one of my favorite partners for working out on all things financial fitness, Lynn Shavinsky. And I couldn’t be happier because obviously January just ended. But it’s always that time of year where we think about our own personal wellness, and we might even make some resets or resolutions, if you will, to kind of think about that. And I think no time like the present to think about that. Long-term health and wellness is long-term financial fitness for your nutrition program. As mentioned we were pleased to provide some foundational information about that in our first series. And now even more exciting as we thought things were going back to a little bit of normal, and we’re still facing things like labor shortages, rising food costs, changes in our commodity programs that are really impacting our day-to-day plate costs, as well as understanding what’s going to be available to us or not in the supply chain.

Maureen Pisanick: (05:37)
So if you feel like you’re constantly struggling for that extra breath, or it feels like you’re running a marathon, we want this session today to give you a little more proactive baby steps to make some shifts so that you don’t become overwhelmed and burdened by the large change of taking on everything all at once. So for me, I said yoga, so at the end of my day, I’ve been meditating a lot on all of this changing and going to my zen place so that I can reduce my blood pressure. But I know Lynn too has her favorite exercise and Pilates certainly I love that. I actually signed up to do a class later after this, so that’s a good way too. I really appreciate the opportunity, Lynn, to talk to us about this. We kind of offset each other and I call you and I’m looking at my menus in Health-e Pro, we have a dynamic that helps us really kind of see both sides of that equation.

Lynn Shavinsky: (06:30)
Exactly. And there are two parts to everything that you’re going to do financially. There’s your income side and your expense side, and your goal is to make sure that you can get them as close to being balanced as you can. So just like when you have a cookie you want to offset that cookie. It’s not saying that it’s bad and you can’t have a cookie, it’s just you might have to do a little bit more exercise. So when you look at the income and expense, it works the same way. If you want to spend money on maybe a higher quality item, then you want to make sure that you’re going to get the kids through the door so that they’re going to participate and they’re going to take that item. And so what we’re going to do is take this higher concept of income and expense and balancing it out and break it down for you into some smaller steps that you can use to move forward. So just like Maureen said, it’s one step forward and suddenly you’ll find that you’ll be moving a little bit more and you’ll be a little bit more limber and a little bit faster in terms of what you do.

Maureen Pisanick: (07:38)
Absolutely. A good yogi always has a good mantra, right? In my breathing meditation, so we have a couple for you to share. So not only is it inspect what you expect, right? There’s some onus on us to really know and understand the numbers. I really like this one. “Make a plan and then work the plan.” So for us, when you’re thinking about income and expense, you have two things, two levers to kind of think about. And so if you’re someone who thinks in your fitness structure for your financial fitness, that you’re going to start thinking about, “Hey, what are my low moving menu items? Let me attack the low five or so lunches or breakfast that are really just not doing very well, and doing that on a more frequent basis and really trying new things to increase that participation.”

Maureen Pisanick: (08:26)
Looking at your reimbursement and say, “Okay, we’ve had some changes in what we’re seeing come in on our commodity dollars or our banks of money that we counted on with our DOD programs and some of the shifts. So where have those things shifted and how is that impacting my plate cost and where do I really need to adjust? The other is, some of us do have the opportunity to build revenue in other ways. So it always is dependent upon where you’re at with your labor and in your infrastructure, and certainly your school district’s wellness policy. But now might be the time to think about, “Hey, we might need to bolster some of our revenue in the a la carte adult meal sales or catering.” Now, when you’re thinking about expenses, I think it’s intertwined and pretty hard when you start thinking about losing some of your commodity dollar balance and maybe paying commercial contracted price.

Maureen Pisanick: (09:15)
So, we’ll walk at that. Our fair market value is basically what are you paying now and when your commodity’s gone, adding that value. And that number sometimes can be strikingly larger than you think. It is. And we are going to talk in detail about some case studies to kind of walk you through that. Obviously, labor continues to be a struggle in a lot of our districts being able to obviously retain qualified staff, we’ve had to sometimes in some ways increase our pay, which is well deserved, but also a budget consideration as well as really retaining and having labor in the sub pool so that you can continue to offer your menu and execute your menu at the level you’d like to perform it. Now might be the time if you’re looking at expenses, what are you doing with some of your disposable supplies or your large per purchase supplies so that you’re really able to, again, kind of dissect all of the moving parts, if you will, and really think about what the impact is having.

Maureen Pisanick: (10:08)
When we talk about controlling your financial fitness, we talk about looking at things that are within your control. For that, we really want to make sure you don’t spin your wheels and you prioritize some of those big items. And when we say that, again like in yoga, you can be a really good yogi when you move with intention, right? So it doesn’t matter if you can hold that standing tree pose for very, very long. The one thing you need to know is when your foot falls down, you can take a deep breath and and lift it back up, right? So for us be working and thinking about things that are within your control. And in our area, I’m a Midwest bound person, but I work with people in the state of California and around the United States, there’s a lot of things that we can control, but there are certainly things across this nation we can’t.

Maureen Pisanick: (10:56)
And some of those are listed here. We have issues with distributor shortages. Supply chain continues to impact our decisions, and it really does. We have to be mindful about it, right? So lack of commodity items right now is a big topic of conversation and some of the different changes the level setting has created within what you planned. We all started in August with a good plan. Most of us with cycle menus, which we’ll talk about why we think that’s a good plan but really the only good plan is the one that continues to be really flexible, evolves and maybe takes that deep breath when it needs to and resets. And so choosing how we react or better yet, plan really is what we are hoping to help you achieve today. So we’re going to talk about areas on your menu that we feel you can leverage, not only wisdom, experience the food available to you, but also software to really help you determine the best exercise plan, if you will, to exercise some control in the areas you can.

Lynn Shavinsky: (11:56)
So you’re going to choose your menu. That’s where you’re going to look at starting. And if you think about what happens when you go to the gym and you walk into the gym, you’re met with a sea of different kinds of weight equipment and cardio rooms and different kinds of areas that you can go in. And obviously you can’t do them all. So you want to choose one place to start and looking at that will help you then focus from there. You have to build that foundation. You have to start. You want a balanced workout, but sometimes you just can’t do every single piece of equipment all at the same time. So focus on one area, whether it’s food or disposable cost, this is a pretty simple one. It’s easy to get that information. What you want to look at is what is the case price and break that down into what your portion cost is.

Lynn Shavinsky: (12:50)
For manufactured products, that can be fairly simple because you’re just dividing a case count, but when you start getting into costing a recipe, it can be a little bit more involved. And that’s sometimes where software can help or things like the food buying guide can help a little bit because it’s going to break those, that full case of salt down into tablespoons or teaspoons, which is what you’re using. But those things add up too. So you want to make sure that you are inclusive in all of those costs. Same thing with disposables, making sure that ultimately you come back to that particular piece because it can be significant especially for some of you who are looking at, you know, you had your carton of milk and all of a sudden now you have a cup and milk. And so that is the cost of that particular food to be able to present participation.

Lynn Shavinsky: (13:43)
If you want to look at participation this one’s a great way if you want to focus on the marketing side of things, but what you need to do is look at how are your costs comparing to the kinds of meals that you’re bringing in. So you can get an average. A lot of people are CEP or the state is funding their meals. So you have a specific revenue that you’re going to get for every single meal that you serve. That’s what your income is. So that plus a potentially a la carte and some other things. So you can use that as a baseline, a comparison to say, what is my entree costing compared to that? What is my whole meal costing compared to that? Because you also have to fit in the cost of labor and things like that. But look at what is the cost, the average cost that I’m bringing in revenue.

Lynn Shavinsky: (14:36)
So how much money am I getting from the reimbursement program, as well as if you’re not CEP or you’re not getting that full paid that you have to take into account the cost of your meal plus the reimbursement. So putting those together to get that participation number. We talk about labor and meals per labor hour is something we talk about a lot. And as Maureen said we did a whole section on it before, but one of the ways that you can measure meals in a uniform sense, so you need some kind of standard, because everybody has different labor hours at their sites, is to look at your labor costs, your total meals, plus an equivalency for breakfast, your snacks, supper, and your a la carte dollars, because some of you, that may be a significant portion of what your labor is.

Lynn Shavinsky: (15:27)
So you want to take all of that and turn it into a meal. And once you get that meal, you are going to compare that to the amount of hours per site, and this is all the hours, and that includes you too. So everyone who it takes to get that out the door to produce, serve and clean up those meals needs to be included. So you want to make sure that you’re focusing on getting all of that. So again, you want to pick an area to target you can do squats, but at some point, your legs are going to look great, but maybe you need to do your arms and a little bit of cardio too. So eventually you got to move onto all of it.

Lynn Shavinsky: (16:10)
Menu optimization is one of the tools that Marian was talking about. How can you get this information? You can do everything by pen and paper, so it is a possibility. Computerization obviously helps make some of these things go a lot faster, whether it’s Excel sheets a lot of things you can find just out on the internet. But most of your software should be able to give you participation kinds of numbers, be able to cost what your items are by putting those food costs in by case and pulling it through. So one of the forms that we really like, and this of course was my favorite financial fitness area, is menu optimization. And what menu optimization does is it looks at two factors. So it’s kind of like an extra bonus deal. You get the cost and how the cost compares to what other items you’re serving, and then as a percent of participation.

Lynn Shavinsky: (17:10)
So what you get are, in our case, there are four different categories. Typically, this is a restaurant report, and there are four grids, if you want to think, four squares on a box. And you’re going to have everything from high participation, high profitability to low participation, and very expensive product. So you want to find where your particular menu items fall, because that’s going to help you to determine maybe what might have to take a rest off of your menu for a while and what might be able to stay on and what’s going to drive students through the door, even if it’s maybe a little bit more expensive. So looking at both the cost and the participation together can give you a lot more detail about how to make good menu choices.

Maureen Pisanick: (18:09)
So monitoring key performance was my favorite financial fitness and people know this is one of my favorite reports that I help our clients use because it really is colorful, it is spelled out, it’s detailed, and it really gives you a nice visual and analytical way to have a really good discussion. If you haven’t used an optimization report, I would highly encourage thinking about, as Lynn said, using some sort of tool like in a Google sheet or in Excel. If you’re good old paper and pencil, hey, I’m not mad at you. Highlight it and make it fun. Make it a part of the conversation. We talk about the best workout as the one that you actually do or the piece of equipment you buy that it doesn’t carry dust on it, you’re actually walking on the treadmill and it’s working for you.

Maureen Pisanick: (18:53)
This is one of those ideas that really comes up all the time relative to inspecting what you expect. And so for me not only meals per labor hour, like are my staff able to do this? We talk a little bit in our bonus content every day. Can’t be a big cardio sesh, right? Not for me anyway.. Like, you gotta have that balance. So we want to say that this menu popularity and the idea really does drive really good decision making and should be something, I’m a fan of group exercise, yoga in a group setting is awesome and lots of other ways it motivates. This is a good group activity to do as a district, but also as a team kitchen lead. So whatever role you play or facilitate or model or coach or teach to within your reach I think data-driven decisions really do empower people to really understand the why.

Maureen Pisanick: (19:41)
And I think once people understand the why, they’re more bought in when changes need to happen. And facts really dictate this using a menu optimization. So I’m going to go through a case study because I’m a big, like, okay, that all makes sense hypothetically, but let’s just get into the workout. So here we are, here’s our workout. For many of us, chicken is highly popular, highly versatile item. We usually are in many states using commodity processing for chicken in a lot of the forms of chicken we serve. We have it across our menu in multiple formats. So some of us use chicken sausage on our breakfast items chicken taco meat, obviously the, the everything. Chicken bars of everything, nuggets and popcorn and tenders and spicy patties, not spicy patties, grilled patties. So chicken is, I think, a good place to start.

Maureen Pisanick: (20:33)
So if I were thinking about a workout on my menu, I would look at something that has popularity, which we know as I just described, chicken can be that item. But anything that’s center of the plate that you find you’re using frequently on your menu obviously the consistency on your menu menu. Is this weekly? Is it biweekly? Is it a food court style? And I have something on daily. Those are all things that you need to kind of think about when you’re looking at popular items. And also the multiple types of products you have. Okay? So it’s really kind of taking an inventory and an assessment of making a good decisions by understanding where you start. And then certainly in the states that we’re serving, there has been some changes so that commodity chicken might not be commodity anymore. And do you understand, it might have been 76 cents a minute ago, but it’s not today.

Maureen Pisanick: (21:17)
So let’s talk a little bit about the commodity versus commercial and the cost. Many of us pride ourselves, all of us should, many of us really, really hold firm to quality. So when it comes to something like, I’ll use my example, a whole muscle chicken patty sandwich, it’s really hard to go back if that’s what your kids, their taste expectation is, their flavor expectation when they look at it, it kind of looks like something they would get in a fast casual dining service model. So it’s not always easy to say, “Oh, that’s not available to me,” or “That’s too expensive.” I’m just going to go back to perhaps a 50/50 blend or a mist patty sandwich that looks completely different. So thinking about the quality in the alternatives when you’re kind of envisioning just this one particular protein as the center of the plate option is where we’re going to start today.

Maureen Pisanick: (22:04)
So as we walk through this, I’m going to dig a little bit more into the popularity. So when you think about popularity on the participation of chicken options compared to other days, so that is important for us, right? So if we know chicken is now going to change in price, and it might not be something we could menu as frequently, how does it compare to some of the other popular days? And so when I got to thinking about the dilemma we find ourselves in right now and most of the clients we’re serving, some days can be equally as popular. So brunch for lunch days at an elementary really are popular and you can do something alternative to a chicken sausage for the meat-meat alternative for that day. Certainly there are things that are also popular that have nothing to do with chicken, and that could be something like a homemade pizza program.

Maureen Pisanick: (22:50)
Or it could be something that is a cheese forward, like your mac and cheese day or your grilled cheese day. So again, participation of chicken and looking at like days where you can see if there are economical reasons where if you can’t serve chicken as much as you might have, you might still gain popular requests by just shifting what you’re doing. And so again, menu optimization, boom, bright in your face, colors, dials, rock stars, you got it all right? But if you don’t, you can still look at those. For us, we pull out our state reporting in Ohio, it’s the good CN six and CN seven, and we’re looking day by day, what is, what did we serve? What is popular? What is equally popular? And so we definitely think about that. And also think about the quantities, right?

Maureen Pisanick: (23:36)
The quantities of chicken across your menu. So if you have today, you have commodity dollars, but you might be running out in the next month or so, you might think about, what if I change the quantity or the frequency now so I can extend the life of my favorite chicken a little longer, right? So you think about the ways you might amend your exercise. So like, Hey, I want to walk five, 10 more minutes, but I can’t do it, , at a 10% incline I might be de decreasing the incline a little bit on the treadmill, but I’m still walking, right? So this is what we’re talking about, thinking about really looking at something like that and, and being diligent about picking it apart to that level of where you see it. And so the next slide, , I’m going to talk a lot, , I was a little shell shocked, so let’s talk about inspecting what we expected.

Maureen Pisanick: (24:24)
It was very serendipitous today, I was able to to to cover a maternity leave at one of our schools, which we’re very happy to be supportive of this district. But I got my shoes on and I got in every kitchen and I looked at last month’s performance and the top five items and the lowest five items. And boy was it ever a great really just walking the walk of inspecting what you expect. Because some of the things that we found no surprise to me on the elementary menu all the way through was chicken is on part of their top five popular. And also it’s also at the point where we know some of it can be commodity. Some of it has now flipped to commercial pricing. And so when I looked at something as simple as the chicken nuggets that kids love going from a commodity price of roughly 76 cents a serving for a center of the plate now might be costing them a dollar.

Maureen Pisanick: (25:16)
So chicken nuggets, fan favorite, we want to keep them, but boy are we going to have to think about the daily co plate cost as well as the average of how often we are going to serve chicken nuggets on that elementary menu. Popcorn chicken, hey, you might just say, I won’t use the full nugget, I’ll use the popcorn. Be careful that 32% increase in fair market value cost of your nugget is 42%. In the case of this school’s analysis that we inspected and we saw a price jump to 42% more for their serving of popcorn chicken. The whole muscle product that I tell you our kids love in our area, it’s like the Chick-fil-A kind of esque vibe, and the kids really, really love it. That’s a 60% increase in cost. So from a 57 cent protein now to a 91 cent protein.

Maureen Pisanick: (26:02)
But the only way I knew that, and again, I’ll be breathing and meditating later over these numbers, because it was a shock, right? You’re like, “Whoa.” You have to start thinking creatively. So for us, as we’re thinking through this particular example, we know that it’s going to be hard for us to replicate in any type of scratch or speed scratch those breaded chicken favorites. But it is within our control to think about how many times they’re on the menu. What can we maybe see that’s really equally as popular, that would be good as well as if it’s something that we might be able to do. Like raw chicken, if your hasp and your staff are trained, that’s a thing guys, and it could save you down from that 91 cent per serving. We’ve done a cost analysis where it goes back down to about 71 cents.

Maureen Pisanick: (26:47)
Now it might not be the 58 cents we were paying commodity. And believe you, all these numbers are floating in my head as I go through this example and with our clients, and you should too, but meeting people where they’re at and really understanding what their pain points are and what their favorites are is the only way you’re going to be able to do this. And so some of the other things we’re doing when we’re thinking about this is many of our schools are looking to think plant-based, or at least put their best plant-based foot forward. They’re going to start the workout and try to do some meatless Mondays, some of our schools are going to be in Lent and they want meatless Fridays, whatever the case may be. We are looking at some of those chicken taco meats that we might be wanting to pull back on because of cost or availability to different options that are plant-based.

Maureen Pisanick: (27:31)
You walk into fast casual restaurants and you see, sofritas offered, so it’s not as unknown anymore, and it might be something that meets two check boxes. Yes, we’re going to change to a different opportunity for our center of the plate meat-meat alternative, but we’re also going to advance the goal of our menu to offer more plant forward menus options for our kids. Instead of grilled strips for salads and chicken salad and shredded, we talked about getting the raw and cooking it yourself. If you’re like, “Yeah, forget that lady, that’s not happening.” I get ya. And I know that I’ve walked into kitchens where best laid ideas get shot down because of the reality of the infrastructure, your equipment, your staff, but thinking outside the differences of the shredded barbecue that is available. And maybe switching up the vibe of some of your wrap salads right now, again, might not have to seem punitive by totally taking it off the menu by shifting it a little bit.

Maureen Pisanick: (28:24)
If your commodity diversion isn’t enough, get saucy. We had the term “Sw-icy” last month as our topic for the year, sweet and spicy. You can find chicken products that might not have all the bells and whistles of some of the commodities you could have afforded by getting interesting sauces and different , herb non-season non-sodium seasoning on your sandwich. So think about those things. I always like to turn lemons into lemonade, that’s my personality. But this has been an opportunity to not only inspect what we expect, but to really think creatively about what we can do on our cycle menus. By the way, if you’re not on a cycle, that’s an easy first step, right? Lynn? That’s an easy first exercise. Exactly.

Lynn Shavinsky: (29:06)
So here I’m going to be your personal trainer and push that question that you probably don’t want to have to do or that particular exercise. But we talk a lot about cycle menus and generally in a very positive way. But a lot of people are think, I don’t want to cycle menu. It limits the variability for my kids and they get bored and all of those kinds of things. And I want to challenge you to think about do you actually use some cycling techniques even if you don’t think you have a cycle menu? Do you have pizza Friday? Do you serve salads on certain days? Are you doing a particular kind of lunch because you get a delivery in and your staff doesn’t have the bandwidth to be able to serve a very involved menu while they’re getting their delivery? So a lot of things that are a part of a cycle menu you may actually be doing without realizing that you are participating.

Lynn Shavinsky: (30:04)
So you want to make sure that we consider why we’re going to do a cycle menu. So with that, it allows us to focus on certain areas so you can have a more focused use and look for some consistency throughout your week. And that’s going to help you for substitutions. Like if you get shorted on something, you don’t want to substitute this really labor intensive food for something that was like chicken nuggets that was really easy for the staff to get out the door. So by having different ideas about what’s going to be where and when you’re going to plan that, that’s going to help for your production. It’s also going to make evaluation easier, your planning because you can look at things from a bigger perspective of, alright, I have commodities, and then if I don’t have commodities, where can I fit those items in and be able to still keep that variety and innovation as a part of your menu.

Lynn Shavinsky: (31:04)
So it doesn’t mean you write it once and forget it certainly that is not going to help you, but what it will do is you can find a slot that maybe you have a a bar concept. Well, just because you have this kind of bar, we just had a new recipe put into Health-e Pro for these whole grain ramen noodles. So there’s a Bar Ramen noodle recipe that’s right at the top now. So you could incorporate something like that. It’s still going to be the same kind of prep, but you’re using a different product, you’re making it interesting, you’re slicing it up for your kids. And they’re going to then respond with participation hopefully. So we’re going to do a case study on menu cycling and creating menu strength. So for strength, you obviously you gotta add weights. So that’s what we’re going to look at.

Lynn Shavinsky: (31:58)
Think about adding each one of these little weights onto your bar until you get to the point where you’ve got a super strong cycle menu and it, it almost stands on its own and you can easily make changes and put things in. So where are your popular items? Where do they live? You want to look for that. Where are my rock stars and my workhorses? And I need to balance those out. You don’t want a whole week of all your rock stars that’s not helping your popularity and it’s not going to help your bottom line. Is this product affordable? Is it affordable enough? As Maureen was talking about the chicken, if I’m suddenly moving to something that’s not commodity, maybe I can’t offer it as a choice every day. So maybe it has to go every other day just because it’s not driving my participation and it’s so much more expensive.

Lynn Shavinsky: (32:49)
Can you get it? Like, that’s one of the questions that everybody seems to be asking right now, both from a commodity standpoint, but also commercially manufacturers have limited their lines. And so there may be some things that are difficult in being able to get that, and you want to avoid that over ordering fear of running out because that also is going to hurt your bottom line. And then lastly, what’s the affordable alternative and what does that do for labor? So like Maureen was talking, raw chicken is great, but if people are not going to cook it properly and we’re not going to know what to do, then we might have a little bit of a problem.

Maureen Pisanick: (33:34)
Absolutely. And you can’t run a cardio marathon every day for your staff or yourself. Exactly. Let’s really just give you a snapshot. I told you I walked a district today undoubtedly, I wanted to let you get inside my head a little bit because I do this on a regular basis and encourage it, some of the things that we thought would be great. What we know about our state right now is about 90% of our commodities will still be available. So wet blanket on the fire, maybe like everybody take a cleansing breath and ohm for a second. It is not as bad as I think some of us originally thought, right? So when you get on the scale and you don’t want to look and you’re like, “Oh dear.”

Maureen Pisanick: (34:15)
I’m the key performance indicator monitor. So not only like on your own physical fitness and what you’re looking at to see, hopefully whatever you’re looking for, this is what you need to do, is you need to look and see exactly where you’re at. And I think everybody feels a sense of calm when they know where they’re level playing field when where you’re at, right? So this is one example of walking through what we’ve done in our local market with our local bid and our local commodity situation. So this might not be the number for every state, but it gives you an idea of a percent increase. And it also gives you places to start. So in all cycle menus that we are looking at for this particular exercise, these are the top five most popular.

Maureen Pisanick: (34:58)
And we even did it so far as categories, right? So these could be more than just five menu days. These are categories. What I did today when I went into a client is I looked at the reports in the top five and the lowest five. So you can do it one of either ways, like just looking at general center of the plate. So your chickens, your beefs, your cheese products perhaps those items that are particularly popular might be more popular at your elementary versus your secondary. But just picking away to evaluate where you’re going to start. And so for here the second piece to that is not only saying where is it at when I’m able to get commodity dollars, and number one, is it going to continue to be available? So understanding best practices is our to communicate talk a lot in some of the bonus section.

Maureen Pisanick: (35:42)
This is a community. There’s a lot of folks talking about this and sharing good information. States are having great town hall meetings about this. Really tune in to understanding where your commodity values are and where they may go if they flip with fair market value pricing into a commercial contracted bid price. And so we’ve done some math figures here. We’ve also talked about availability because some products we said 90% of commodities will be available, but some commodity processors will not be available. So if you’re one of those, or you have one of those and you’re high popular, you have a decision to make if your state has canceled a truck and you’re no longer going to be able to get that particular item because it’s just simply not going to be available or does not have a commercial net off invoice is what we call them opportunity for you to be able to do that.

Maureen Pisanick: (36:28)
So knowing of the availability and then thinking alternatively there are some commercial versus commodities. So commodities might flip over to a commercial price or there might be some commercial items. Friendly reminder as a menu planner, please look to find those that do have child nutrition labels or product formulation statements. It’s not the wild-wild west, you don’t just go into a gym and run havoc over what exercise program you’re going to do. I mean, there are some of us that have opportunities to look at catalogs that serve non-school friendly segments. But just remember you have to keep documentation that credits correctly for your ounce equivalence both in grain and protein. Certainly you want to make sure that if you’re using other items that you’re meeting all your vegetable subgroups, there are no waivers, guys. This is definitely inspect what you expect.

Maureen Pisanick: (37:18)
And then already start thinking, we talked a little bit about the plant-based, and I’ll give you an example. So I’m like, “Yes, we’re checking off the box for an innovative idea and it’s going to be great. We’re going to market it well. And oh wow, the plant-based taco meat I thought I wanted to use isn’t on my bid and it’s a $1.36 a serving. Well, heck, I’m going higher than what I was paying commercial price for my beef or my chicken.” So then I had to obviously investigate that and figure out there is a taco a plant-based taco that is on my bid and it’s about 67 cents a serving. That’s better. So, again, really knowing that dynamic of your key performance indicators and like what you’re thinking about doing, but that also says, “Hey, but I really like that one.”

Maureen Pisanick: (38:00)
That’s $1.36. How do I get that on my bid? We’re getting into bid season. That’s something you really want. Maybe this serendipitously is a way for us to really think more creatively, not only about how we right fit our cycles now, but in the planful mindfulness of 24/25, just around the corner here, or our summer feeding programs. So I love swaps. If anything about us, we love scratch feed, scratch recipes. So again, we talk about plant-based being an initiative. Some of us in our schools have always wanted to do a little bit more on our scratch cooking. I’m here to tell you a lot of our schools that are doing pre-bought pizza or cheese stick breadstick full type items on their menu, they’re really looking at realizing that now might be the time to start that homemade pizza process that could become really economical and it’s really highly popular.

Maureen Pisanick: (38:48)
So you’re looking at a rockstar in terms of participation and you’re lowering the cost. Again, light bulb moment should be going off here. So thinking about picking your battles, picking that work workout plan, not picking seven, but picking the one that you think you can focus on and really getting it done. As we’re looking through with a lot of our clients, one of the places that we think is going to be an easy win for us. But that doesn’t fix everything. I walked a district today and I really do try to do that often because I think you really need to have boots on the ground to see this. But let’s look at a Monday through Friday kind of scenario here when we’re thinking about these.

Maureen Pisanick: (39:25)
So Lynn and I kind of went back and forth and we’re like, “Okay, nobody wants a hard speed scratch homemade pizza on Monday, right?” You usually have to proof those dough balls. You’re going to have to cheerlead your staff and get in there and work on that training. So when is the right day of the week to make that happen? And really thinking not only what do, what does our staff need on a Monday? They want things that are easy to prep easy to get. We talk about thinking about you might have some high cost days on your week, what is the average of that? So you might pick that as you look at Monday through Friday and amortizing not only our sodium and fat averages for the week, but now the cost of the average plate, right?

Maureen Pisanick: (40:03)
And really knowing that and being a little more in tune to that. And then also Monday it’s really hard if you have you don’t have the opportunity to do pre-prep. So think about your pre-prep menu ideas and really kind of shift those later on into the week just to kind of think about that. And so we’ve listed some examples here that may or may not work, but in some of our schools they do because it’s easier to open and heat and provide than it is to assemble or create. We know that schools love themes. So like a lot of our schools might do something more taco-y or Tex-Mex friendly on a Tuesday because it’s a good alliteration, why not? But also, people tend to kind of be creatures of habit. So we’re looking at when you had that program and if you’re thinking about changing some of it because of the dynamic changing of your commodities again, looking at doing different maybe plant-based options and or different ideas behind them.

Maureen Pisanick: (40:58)
Like today, walking Taco is a huge hit in our region, but we saw one of our schools and it was low. And I think sometimes when you think elementary kids don’t really like things touching, it could be just how you’re serving it, right? So it might not be a buildable or a build-a-bag concept if the elementary kids are not participating in it and it’s because the food’s touching and they’re grossed out, right? So some of it is, again, just taking those steps and really evaluating. Wednesday it might not be your delivery day, but pick which day of the week is. And what? That’s a hard day too, because you’re busting a lot of cases. We talk about in our bonus content, the workouts we could do with our number 10 cans and our 30 pound boxes of vegetables you might be ordering in so that you can offset your plate costs.

Maureen Pisanick: (41:40)
The great way to do it if you’re looking at the opportunity to invest a little bit more in your center of the plate and you’re receiving deliveries, you might be working it out in the back room, moving all the cases that you just bought to offset the cost of your side dishes. However, you do want to make sure you balance that relative to your staff’s ability to get that menu completed, right? And so again, so on and so forth, Thursday might be a little bit better. There’s enough time for scratch cooking. You’ve had some days to prepare. You’ve made a mindful plan. You’ve looked at your workflow, you’ve coached up your staff, and now you’re going to give it a go. And then certainly Friday you might think about different options. It could be a pizza day Friday, it could be something easy that becomes meatless. Those are all the different things that kind of we walk through as we look at that popularity and then really just start sketching the cycle and hypothetical and planfulness, right? Lynn, I know you talk a lot about other options here. Did I miss anything that you think you want to highlight?

Lynn Shavinsky: (42:40)
The main thing is just that you can create this kind of a grid. So when you talk about making sure that you build in variety and creativity into your menu, take a look and sit down and look at what are you currently doing? What do you need to accommodate, make that the top line of these are the things that I need to take into consideration. And then start filling in on the bottom some of the things that from your popularity and from your costs seem to work, so that if on Tuesday suddenly you can’t get that beef crumble, you can look and see, alright, well maybe I could use ground beef and I could make it an enchilada, or I can make it a taco bar instead. Or I can substitute the chicken just for variety. So this is why we’re saying a cycle menu doesn’t have to be so rigid and it doesn’t have to be just one way. You have lots of flexibility to be creative in here, but you want to make sure that you have some guidelines to follow. And part of that piece of following those guidelines is making sure that you can get some things in.

Maureen Pisanick: (43:50)
I love a best laid plan. I love when my menu looks great for instances of using Health-e Pro. All my weeks are in the right colors and I’m jiving and my range of meal, my virtual menu looks great and everything’s marketing. But if I missed one critical step and that is to really think about how I’ve communicated that to my logistical partners, I have really missed a beat, right? And so one of the things we knew way back a couple years ago when the world turned upside down still really manifests today and this new chain of supply chain issues with commodity is if you want to put something on your menu that’s different, that’s awesome. If you plan a new cycle and you make some tweaks based on your commodity price assessment, kudos to you.

Maureen Pisanick: (44:34)
That’s even further along the workout process. But you really need to get that across the finish line or finish the complete whatever cycle your rings, your watch telling you’ve completed your workout is when you talk to your logistical partners and you meet them where they’re at. So those are your manufacturer broker partners, certainly your logistical partners that bring it, because it’s not, you can’t give good service unless you get it. And you can’t serve your wonderfully planned menus that are thought out and right fitted unless your delivery people know that that’s what you want. So really having those discussions about what you project, a cycle menu is very helpful to that, right? About what your participation is, your enrollment , nobody’s going to make you sign in blood that you’re going to buy every last bit of it, but it gives them an idea that you’ve put it on your cycle menu once a week, twice a week, and it’ll be repeating every three to four to five weeks, whatever cycle choice you make as a projection figure for them to be able to have that product in stock.

Maureen Pisanick: (45:27)
Because the best laid plans are only those that are well communicated and you can actually receive those products and serve them without getting that dreaded out of stock notice, right? So really we really finish this by thinking about what can you do to think about day ahead, week ahead ordering month ahead, order ahead, planning strategic number assessments and sharing that information with the powers that be that support your programs. And I think those are all really, really good things to think about because the menu drives your business.

Lynn Shavinsky: (45:58)
Right? The menu drives your business.

Maureen Pisanick: (45:59)
Menu drives your business.

Lynn Shavinsky: (46:01)
That’s where you’re going to start. Whether you pick your costing, your participation, looking at those commodities and really doing that in-depth analysis of what that is bringing you, you’re supplying your staffing. Those are all of the components. But today’s February 1st, choose one of these areas. You’re not going to run the marathon so you don’t have to finish by next week or even the end of the month. Today we’re getting up off of the couch

Maureen Pisanick: (46:33)
And we’re taking that first

Lynn Shavinsky: (46:34)
Step, we’re going to take that first step. I was going to see if I could get it in there. So as we keep saying, the only bad workout is the one that you don’t do.

Maureen Pisanick: (46:45)
Yeah. And a bonus, it’s leap year. You get an extra day in the month this month, this year to plan, right? So

Lynn Shavinsky: (46:51)
In February,

Maureen Pisanick: (46:52)
In February, there we go. So we are yeah, we’re to the end here and I’m going to pass it back to Laura. I know we had some questions and we want to see if we can work out some of those answers for you. Here I’m passing it back to our favorite pickle baller, Laura.

Laura Thompson: (47:08)
Love it. I, and as a pickle baller, I do love this, this graphic here. So that makes me happy. So now this is the question portion of the webinar. So if you have questions, go ahead and put them in the Q&A section at the bottom and we will get to those. We also have a lot of questions that were submitted as people registered, so we’re going to tackle some of that. But I just want to cover a couple quick bases. Again, this webinar is recorded, so we will be able to pass this along tomorrow in an email that’s going out if you’ve registered. But we’re also, as you may have heard a few times, there was some bonus content that Lynn and Maureen mentioned, and there is some of this content. As we were preparing this webinar, we realized there was way more content that we wanted to provide for you than was going to fit at an hour.

Laura Thompson: (47:52)
So Lynn and Maureen spent some time this week and recorded three other sections that go along with this. So those videos will also be posted in the link that we will be sending to you as well. So keep your eye out for that email that we will be sending out tomorrow. And again, please put your questions in the Q&A box at the bottom. But as we are waiting for those to come through, here are some of the questions or the themes of the questions that we have been receiving so far. So the number that, or the two most popular questions were one, how do you calculate meal costs or how does that process work? What are some of the thoughts you put into that? And then second, can you talk more about calculating meals per labor hour? So who would like to tackle the, the meal costs question first?

Maureen Pisanick: (48:37)
I’ll go and then I’ll tag my friend in for meals per labor hour. Okay? The old adage inspecting what you expect, you have to really look not only at what you order I love a good cost of goods sold on a monthly basis. So the big picture really is again, back to our financial fitness first series, is the basics of knowing what you have on inventory, what you’ve purchased less. Your ending inventory really kind of gives you a big picture of your costs of goods sold for any given period of time, week, month, whatever. You’re able to do it at month is usually what we see. But that only gives you the big picture. So the minute picture is really what we do utilizing this software is picking the recipes and looking at what a day’s projected planned servings are.

Maureen Pisanick: (49:25)
And so meal costs can be planned, but in theoretical, like this is what, in theory, if it costs me this and I’ve put my pricing in and I’ve planned this menu, here it is. But we all know we have things to consider, which really does talk to us about why it’s so important to do production records, right? So production records, and we talk a ton about this in our bonus content, what is your waste, guys? Are you batch cooking? Are you having minimal waste? Are you having a lot of waste? How is that impacting your plate cost? Because you can definitely have the best laid plans, but if you’re not really looking at the factor of inventory, turnover and management and your product waste, those are two areas that are maybe the hidden that sabotage your exercise, right?

Maureen Pisanick: (50:10)
So you could be running right and running like crazy but then you’re eating like, three protein bars because you’re really hungry and you didn’t realize you just consumed twice the amount of calories you burned, right? So we’re using all these crazy analogies and thank you for the props- we love them too. It’s tough content to talk about money all the time, but we try to make it fun. So the play cost really is is a big think tank and really just kind of starting, that’s why I like to pick the top five, right? Because if you look at everyone, we know that our participation not only drives our menu and the menu choices, but a lot of that impacts our finances. So if you’re able to really hone in on those top five, to me that’s a really good assessment of really looking at what is your theoretical, and then the other piece, just the quick tip, offer versus serve.

Maureen Pisanick: (50:57)
If you’re not a school that knows what that is or has used that it really has helped some of our schools find that their theoretical costs actually can be planned, but then the true cost might be different. And I’ll give you one real example. If you plan for every lunch tray to go out with a little milk on it, and in that milk cost you 26 cents that is a really planned theoretical cost, what that meal is. But if you are a school where only 50% of your kids take milk and you have offer versus serve, there’s a little wiggle room in those pennies, right? So we talk a little bit about that. So understanding the, how you’ve planned your menu and how you’ve strategized your theoretical costs, looking at inventory management and movement, and then also inspecting your waste, I think are really some wrap around ideas. When you think about just doing the math on what a plate costs you.

Lynn Shavinsky: (51:44)
They just also happen to be our bonus content. So nice plug,

Maureen Pisanick: (51:50)
…to the bonus content.

Lynn Shavinsky: (51:50)
I’m a fan to adjust your questions about labor. Meals per Labor hour specifically. So I saw a couple of the questions are, “What happens? Do I count subs? Am I supposed to count everybody what if something’s not there?” So it really is about how you can operate. So part of it is what’s coming out of your budget, and that’s really the best place to start. So what am I directly paying for? If you’re not paying for somebody, like who’s helping with breakfast, start right now with, let’s just see where we are. Let’s get some baseline, right? Let’s see what our regular pulse is on this. And what you want to look for is some consistency, and that is really the key to meals per labor hour. So you’re going to put in the labor divided out and then look at how you’re going to count against those meals.

Lynn Shavinsky: (52:47)
And so what that’s going to do is you want to do it by school so that you can kind of see how each one of your schools is functioning. Now, it’s not going to be even most likely because secondary schools take a lot more people to have a lot more choices and things like that. But somewhere in between there’s going to be a little bit of a sweet spot number that you should start to see. And from there you can look at, where do I want to be? There is a number that’s out there. It doesn’t necessarily match for everybody. It doesn’t necessarily work for Central Kitchens, but somewhere in the 13 to 22 range, which is a big range is at least a starting point. And you’re looking for consistencies for the person who asked about substitutes. You want to run it with the actuals.

Lynn Shavinsky: (53:40)
What that should show you is that you’re short and you need some additional help, but what it might do is allow you to say, “Well, I actually don’t need an eight hour position. I really need it to be a six hour position for what it is.” Or “I need to balance that out and add more participation, bring in more income to be able to do that. So meals per Labor is really about consistency more so than anything else, and being inclusive.” So then once you’ve run those numbers, you can start chipping away at what does it really cost for that meal? So at some point, if you were to have to because this happens to a lot of people, suddenly that aid is needed in a classroom, and now you have to provide someone who’s going to help with breakfast. What exactly would that look like if you had to supply that person yourself?

Maureen Pisanick: (54:34)
A couple things I’ll add on Meals Per Labor real quick is general math in my mind, I take what I’m charging for my meal and cut it in half and think of big budgets, like half of it should pay for my food and supplies and half of it should afford my people if I’m breakeven. And some percentages are different. I like to use 18 to 24 meals per labor hour. That’s been my honey spot over the years, but I will say if I started really getting my staff to cook from scratch, the food cost goes down, but the labor might go up, right? Because you’re investing in your people not the ready to serve food that has usually has a higher price tag, right? So if you have a menu that is going to be more scratch cooking, you’re going to be on the lower end of the meals per labor hour, and we have seen between 13 to 18 and, and still make money and say, “Wow, that’s great because we’re investing in people not just the ready to eat and serve individually wrapped type food.” But if you are in a more of a commissary or a big distribution model, sometimes we’ve seen that number high as 25 to 27, it gets high if you’re just really reassembling things and handing out things that don’t take a lot of prep time.

Maureen Pisanick: (55:38)
So it’s not a one size fits all, but it does give you some places to start.

Laura Thompson: (55:44)
That is super helpful, understanding that it’s going to be different based on the district you or the organization you are and how that’s going to work. So thank you for that distinction. Somebody else had asked, actually this was asked by quite a few people, how do I- and I know you talked about it before, but maybe another example or another angle would be helpful. How do I determine the menu mix with cost and popularity? Is there like a first step that you would take when trying to determine, we’re going to nix this or we’re going to increase more of this? How do you go about that thought process?

Maureen Pisanick: (56:14)
Lynn, I’ll let you jump in.

Lynn Shavinsky: (56:15)
Because menu optimization is my favorite, right? You’re going to get a grid one way or the other. So you’re going to look at what are my drivers? And you’re going to cost those out and you’re going to put them in four different categories, things that have high participation, some things are going to be high participation, not profitable, and some things are going to be high participation, profitable. And then the same thing with low participation. That’s the first place to start is and you can do it, I would do it on a very large scale as Maureen kind of was talking about. So look at your whole hopefully cycle or month or range that compares all of those things. Obviously lunch items to lunch items and then from there that’s going to give you, these are the things that are doing really well and they’re inexpensive and I don’t have to worry about them unless something changes and I suddenly can’t get them or I run out.

Lynn Shavinsky: (57:14)
So keep that piece in the back of your mind that you still want to keep those. Then I would say the other place to look is in between. So you have your puzzles and your workhorses, and those are things that have high one area low, the other area, and many of them have a place on your menu. So commodities is a perfect example. Like a grilled cheese sandwich might be relatively low cost but, it might be high participation. Well, that’s going to help you. That’s like finding that extra 20 bucks in your pocket after the laundry, right? It’s, that’s good thing. And you can use that particular product on weeks where maybe things are creeping up and getting a little bit higher. There’s also the items that you’re just going to put in for choice. You’re not necessarily expecting them to drive a huge amount, but the variety and the choice is really important to you.

Lynn Shavinsky: (58:13)
So you’re willing to spend a little bit more there, but you have to offset it. So those are the puzzles that you want to be cognizant of. And one of the jokes we have is dogs are super cute, but you really don’t want them on your menu. The issue with dogs which are considered low popularity and low profitability, it doesn’t mean you’re going to throw them out because a lot of things might be like a vegan sandwich might be very expensive, but you’re only making a few of them. Those are the kinds of things you may want to look at as Maureen was talking about with waste is are you making just enough? Or are you overproducing them and you’re throwing that $1.60 away every single day? Those are the kinds of decisions that you want to use to analyze some of the items that are on there. So it’s not just oh no, this is expensive and nobody likes it. Throw it out. Everything has a role, but you have to compare amongst the whole to figure out what role it’s playing.

Maureen Pisanick: (59:20)
Yeah, data drives that decision and, but it’s people, we’re in the business of people. So student groups, student surveys we are a community-minded group, so getting some input on popularity is always good. Try days. We talk a lot about that in bonus content. One of the things I will say too about staff is really trying to take the steps around your kitchen and understand if I’ve had this happen to me where we’ve evaluated a menu and our staff will say, that’s not a great menu. We don’t like that menu. Can you change it? And when I look it’s a high participation and I go, oh my gosh, why? Why do you want to take that off the menu? And I realize they’re spending three x the amount of time scrubbing the four inch hotel pan because the pasta is stuck on there.

Maureen Pisanick: (01:00:03)
Let me help you. I can get you a pan liner and we’ll still make that great menu that’s popular, that’s well costed, but we understand it’s maybe not your favorite because it’s increasing your labor cost or your labor time at the end of the day. So taking those necessary extra steps, getting in those 10,000 steps. We talk about that in the bonus context and how to do it mindfully and getting more the most bang for your buck by really gleaning information by walking through your program. Everything looks great on paper, but we are humans. And so I love to say part of the inspecting what we expect and making a plan and working the plan is really being with the people that you want to serve and trying your hardest to understand them and to really work through challenges that not only the students bring to you and their surveys and requests for different things, but also your staff. And so, I know we’re up on the hour. I wish I could talk all day about this stuff with you guys,. We did do the bonus content because of that. But Laura, is there anything else you want us to answer? Or maybe we’ll do a frequently asked question bonus bonus.

Laura Thompson: (01:00:59)
We might have to do a bonus bonus because we did get so many questions and so many comments coming through chat there isn’t time for all of it, but I know that there is the demand for it out there. But thank you so much Maureen and Lynn for your expertise, for your insights, for the heart that you share in this industry. And like you’re saying, it is very collaborative and we want to be able to offer help and provide value for you. So thank you so much for attending today. There are a couple links that were shared in the chat if you need to check them out. So one, there is a link to go fill out a survey to get professional development certificate for your time today. There is also a link to the previous financial fitness from 2020 that we put together, if you want sort of a refresher on calculating meal costs, calculating meal per labor hour, all of those things as well.

Laura Thompson: (01:01:42)
And as you leave this webinar today, there will also be a survey of what feedback do you have, is there a topic you’d like to see in the future? We’re always soliciting ideas for what other topics might be helpful for you. So please fill that out and let us know. And again, thank you so much Maureen and Lynn. We appreciate your time and your expertise and we will be sending out an email tomorrow with a link to the resources that you can watch the recording, watch the bonus content, have access to the slides, etc. So thank you so much for joining us today, and we will talk to you soon.

Maureen Pisanick: (01:02:10)
Thank you. Thanks.