Is A Dining Service Right For Your Camp?

Fifteen-year-old Ian Martin was asked to give a presentation about his camp experience to a group of potential campers. The directors anticipated that he would talk about the high-ropes courses, swimming pool and new friends, but his first words were, “The camp food is awesome. You always know you will eat well at camp.” Ian’s comments emphasize the importance of having a high-quality dining experience and food program at your camp.

Mmm, Mmm Good

Camps must decide if they can deliver the best possible product by using a dining service, such as Creative Dining Services or Kandle Dining Services, or by managing the kitchen in-house. Understanding the benefits of the options will help decide what is best for your camp.

What Can A Dining Service Provide For Your Camp?

Dining services provide peace of mind, smooth accounting processes, high-quality meals and flexibility. Answering some questions can help determine if the food program at your camp has become a blessing or a burden:

Solving Staffing Issues

Have you ever lost sleep wondering if your kitchen staff will show up or quit during the heat of the summer? Do you worry about your cooks’ reactions to donor nights, staff appreciation banquets or themed meals? One great benefit from a contracted dining service is that it takes care of hiring the entire kitchen staff or working with pre-hired employees designated by the camp. Steve Renz, vice president of Creative Dining, says his staff is so flexible that the members are even willing to train young counselors to work alongside the professional staff. Leslie Gebhart, an associate of Kandle Dining, points out the company hires some international staffers to work with the camps, which adds a unique aspect to the program.

Because both companies are customer-service oriented and flexible, their staffs understand the last-minute changes and special requests that occur in camps and do not mind making changes to suit the needs of the campers. Most of the cooks enjoy having fun with special meals to the point they will even dress according to the theme. Chris Brockman, director of operations at Stepping Stones Camp Allyn in Cincinnati, says he does not have to worry about the day-to-day operations of the kitchen because he trusts the contracted dining service’s management team to troubleshoot if a kitchen worker does not show up, quits, or needs to be fired. Chris feels that the lead cook is part of the camp family, a true team player, and knows the campers and their special diets. Renz feels his service can be beneficial to camps dealing with transitions of key staff members, such as directors or kitchen managers, who can go about their business. Gerhart feels his service helps to restructure a program to make it efficient and effective.

The dining services also are flexible with camps’ schedules and willing to work with year-round facilities, summer-only camps or camps that run some weekend programs. A benefit to working with the dining services is that camps do not need to worry about finding kitchen staff during the more sporadic program season.

Balancing the Budget

Do you have a hard time keeping track of all the kitchen receipts, ordering the right amount of food and finding the right equipment? Dining services work with the camp to establish a budget and provide weekly or bi-weekly budget updates. Not only do the companies take care of the kitchen accounting practices, they also work with camps to provide the best prices. Creative Dining and Kandle Dining purchase food, supplies and equipment in bulk and are able to pass on a significant cost savings.

Monitoring The Menu

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