Rock Hill School District Three is located in Rock Hill, South Carolina, just 25 miles south of Charlotte, North Carolina. The district is comprised of 27 schools with an enrollment of 17,500 students. The district serves more than 2.3 million meals a year and offers restaurant and catering services. The Food Service Director, Chad Mitchell, has been employed by Rock Hill School District for more than eight years and is a Registered Dietitian.
Like many food service directors, Chad faced many challenges: financial pressures, wellness policies, USDA guidelines, and staffing concerns were just a few. Chad was manually managing many of his operation’s processes due to the fact that the system in place at the time did not have a way to centralize the data. For example, physical inventory was keyed into a spreadsheet by his site managers and emailed to the central office. He had no way to consolidate or review the inventory for the entire district without someone re-keying all of the information from each site into a central spreadsheet. The time it took his managers and office staff to complete just this one task was immense.
“Menu planning, nutrition analysis, and production records were tedious processes,” stated Lasinda Orr, Nutrition Education Coordinator for the district. “Every time I made a menu change using our previous software, I’d have to PDF the menu and production record and email it to each school. The managers had to print and use hard copies.”
Each school had a large notebook of recipes in the kitchen, and the cooks had to scale their own recipes. “Many of them didn’t have great math skills and just guessed at the amounts needed,” Chad stated. There was no consistency in meal production.
Rock Hill knew they wanted to take the district’s food service operation to the next level and set out to do so. Their goal was to select one vendor that could meet their needs for both the front and the back of the house. After careful consideration, they narrowed it down to three vendors. They piloted the software systems at separate middle schools, but had each manager use each system at some point. Horizon was selected unanimously by all 12 employees.
During the pilot phase, Chad called each vendor’s technical support at all hours of the day and night to make sure he received assistance. “You can have the world’s best system but if no one answers the phone, what good does it do you?” Chad asked. Rock Hill found exactly what they were looking for with Horizon’s support and software. They moved forward with installation at all schools.
Horizon worked with Chad and the Rock Hill team by first conducting an initial discovery meeting. The meeting not only determined the exact product needs of the district, but the exact implementation needs as well. The Horizon representative was able to take the Excel spreadsheets the district was using and assist them in forming new processes and best practices for the sites to utilize going forward.
The back of the house modules were implemented in all schools. Chad said, “It required some time and effort to get up and running, but the functionality we get out of it is worth it!”
Horizon’s Inventory Management module provided Rock Hill with the flexibility to setup each school’s inventory worksheet the way the site manager wanted. Using Express Entry, managers are now able to enter their counts into the system in less time than with the spreadsheet and with greater accuracy. Chad and his supervisors can review the district’s inventory by district, area, and/or individual school, at any time throughout the month. Rock Hill realized an immediate reduction in losses from shrinkage and over ordering.
The district also saw significant food and labor cost savings as a result of using the Inventory Management and Menu Planner/Nutrition Analysis modules.
Food costs for the school year after implementing Horizon's system decreased by $52,700 compared to the previous school year, which is pretty impressive considering how much the cost of food had gone up.
Rock Hill was able to decrease labor costs by $217,400, even with the district opening two new schools and with the student population increasing by 300–500 students. Chad noted, "Even with the increase in students and schools, we have been able to control our costs."
The district was excited about the huge time savings they experienced with Menu Planner and Production. Lasinda explained, “Menu planning and nutrition analysis are so much easier. I can make changes to the menu from my office for all of the schools.” Since Horizon’s back of the house modules are fully integrated, changes made to the menus automatically update the production records. “The amount of paper we used to print hard copies of everything was huge. Now everything is maintained in the system,” she noted.
The food service managers at Rock Hill are focusing more on their bottom line by routinely running the Inventory Value on Hand report. “Each manager has really taken ownership of the business side of their operation since they have so much information now available to them,” said Chad. One unexpected outcome was the increase in his employees’ satisfaction. “Managers now have time to actually manage,” stated Chad.
Rock Hill underwent its first School Meal Initiative (SMI) review since implementing the Horizon solution. Both Chad and Lasinda commented that the back of the house software played a large role in their successful outcome.
The reviewer spent the first day verifying the nutrition analysis for food items, recipes, and menus from Menu Planner. She was very impressed with the accuracy of the analysis. She was even more impressed with the fact that Lasinda could provide her with copies of their production records for each site from the central office.
By the second day, she knew so much about the Rock Hill operations from the Horizon reports she didn’t need to spend a lot of time doing a detailed inspection at the sites. According to Chad, “This was the smoothest SMI we’ve ever had!”
Horizon and Rock Hill School District will continue to take their partnership to new levels by creating effective processes and saving dollars along the way!