Teens and adolescences are drinking more coffee drinks and less sugary drinks. In response West Forsyth High School in Clemens, N.C., is piloting a coffee shop dubbed The Grind.
“The coffee shop concept brings students and educators a dining and coffee experience similar to the environments they enjoy outside of their school café,” says Amanda Mendenhall, resident district manager for Chartwells K12, which runs the foodservice operation for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. “They can get similar menu choices in a new place to relax, recharge and visit with friends.”
Mendenhall adds that all drinks served in this concept meet or exceed USDA guidelines and comply with Smart Snacks requirements.
The Grind offers a true café experience. There’s soft seating to sit and recharge, as well as clean, modern wood finishing and bistro-style lights. Students and staff can choose from a menu of hot- and cold-brewed coffee, hot- and iced-cappuccinos, and hot and cold lattes. It’s open from 7:30 a.m. until 8:55 a.m. and from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., and was installed as part of a two-month, $600,000 renovation to the West Forsyth Café.
“Students were really excited to come back to school on August 29 to a new café and coffee shop,” says Mendenhall, who was a student in Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools before attending Wake Forest University, where she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. “The Grind is gaining momentum every week, and students are benefitting from not just an additional dining option but the space to gather, collaborate and meet with classmates and friends.”
The Grind accepts cash and checks that can be added to a student’s account. And if a student purchases a grab-and-go sandwich and salad along with a fruit or vegetable, it counts as reimbursable meal.
“We know students are looking for great food served quickly in a fun, on-trend environment that reflects the experiences they have outside of school,” Mendenhall says. “The renovation allowed us to deliver on those expectations while increasing culinary options and improving speed of service.”
In addition to The Grind, the renovation also included an On the Go Market and an action cooking station. These new concepts joined student favorites like the grill, deli, pizza/pasta and an On the Go Grab and Go station.
“We are currently in the planning stages to launch a schoolwide contest to name and brand each of the concepts,” Mendenhall says. “We are excited to work with the talented students at West Forsyth and incorporate their vision and artwork into each café concept.”
Chartwells chefs and dietitians collaborated to create the new menu featuring bold, on-trend flavors, Mendenhall reports. A few early favorites include: Greek-marinated vegetables, Caribbean jerk chicken burrito bowl, chicken gyro, Cubano sandwich, Thai chili-spiced chicken taco, broccoli ranch salad, Buffalo chicken nachos, barbecue chicken peach pizza, harvest chicken salad, strawberry chicken salad, chicken salad plate, sweet potato fries and seasoned collards.
“Chartwells and Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools are passionate about delivering great-tasting, nutritious meals to students every day, and the new café deeply supports that goal,” Mendenhall says. “By offering made-to-order concepts, we are empowering students to be the owners of their health and wellness and teaching them that making healthy food choices can taste great. Well-nourished, properly fueled students focus better in the classroom and perform better outside of the classroom. The school café plays a big role in supporting students’ academic, extra-curricular and long-term goals. We are helping to build a generation of students who make great choices in and outside of the school café.”
The renovation also included a few new pieces of equipment to support this fresh, new menu including an impinger for fresh pizzas, calzones, roasted veggies and more; a Turbo Chef to heat grab-and-go sandwiches; and an induction top for action cooking.
“We believe strongly in bringing the cooking process right to our students, so these additions were actually made to the front of the house,” Mendenhall says. “Students can now watch and be a part of the culinary process as they watch their meals prepared fresh right in front of them.”