Hockaday Switches to SAGE


SAGE Dining Services will replace Hockaday’s 103-year-old in-house dining system.

SAGE, a national company that provides food services to independent schools and colleges, will start working on June 1, 2016 with Hockaday. The company has developed a food program that meets the culinary, nutritional and social needs of the community within a reasonable budget. In fact, finances were one of the factors in the decision to switch from the current dining system to an outside program, according to Chief Financial Officer J.T. Coats.

“[Hockaday has] had some budget issues for the last few years,” Coats said. “Food was probably the biggest place to make an impact from a financial and quality standpoint, so that’s naturally where we started.”

Thus, last year after Hockaday’s self-study and strategic planning, Coats and the financial team at Hockaday began to research solutions such as using an outside program like SAGE, which caters to other private schools in the Dallas area including ESD, Greenhill and Ursuline.

Looking at the operations of SAGE, many factors compelled Coats to choose this dining service. She said that, financially, SAGE will bring a strong infrastructure since they have more economical buying power, access to a network of organic food and buys for a multitude of schools, which reduces food waste.

Along with that, they bring their own ideas and approaches, which they have mastered by catering to a variety of schools across the nation and learning what works and what doesn’t. For example, over the summer SAGE will reorganize the cafeteria into different stations, such as drinks, salads, fruits and vegetables.

However, the decision was not made solely on finances.

“The thing I’m most impressed with is that the food is great,” Coats said. “It’s from scratch, it’s fresh, it’s beautiful and it tastes really good.”

Students will be able to go onto SAGE’s website to look at the lunch menu, which includes nutritional information and is reviewed by a dietician. Additionally, the site has a tool that will allow students with allergies to view what they can or cannot eat at lunch each day.

In order to make sure that the food is prepared safely and separately from allergens, employees undergo training every single morning, in which they learn about cross-contamination and how to avoid it.

Along with quality, even though many schools use SAGE, the food service company maintains the personality of each different school in the food that they serve.

At Hockaday, SAGE will learn the sacred food items, such as chicken parm or cavatappi pasta, and work to adjust the menu to the school.

“I think their quality of food is unsurpassed in the private school area,” Coats said.

Scott Griggs, Greenhill’s Head of School, agrees with Coats. For the past 11 years, SAGE has offered Greenhill students and faculty a varied menu made from scratch with high-quality ingredients.

“SAGE has been extremely responsive to the needs of individual students and faculty members, including those with food allergies and sensitivities, religious needs and personal food preferences,” Griggs said. “SAGE listens to and responds to the needs of our diverse community.”

Along with Griggs, Head of School at the Episcopal School of Dallas Meredyth Cole appreciates the variety of nutritious and fresh options. One of her personal favorites is the spa water, infused with fruits or veggies, provided daily.

Although SAGE will be replacing the in-house dining system, it does not mean that students and faculty won’t still see the same friendly faces in the cafeteria.

Coats made sure that Hockaday’s hourly kitchen employees had secure positions. Since SAGE is well known in the foodservice industry, working for SAGE will widen their future career path.

However, the school’s kitchen managing staff were not given secure positions at SAGE, though they could still apply for a job with the company.

According to Director of Food Services Torie Reynolds, none of the current managing staff in the kitchen will be returning to Hockaday. But she anticipates there will be some changes to the kitchen.

“They will be redoing the entire service line. It’s going to look different,” Reynolds said. “They’re going to do stations. Other than that, I don’t think they will drastically change things right off the bat. They have a lot of systems that are going to make things easier for students using a website to figure out nutritional information.”

Reynolds will not be returning to Hockaday next year. Instead, Jaime Orman and Liz Flannery, SAGE Food Service Directors at Trinity Christian Academy and Ursuline Academy respectively, will become the SAGE Directors of Food Service at Hockaday in the fall when they will begin to discuss changes to the Hockaday kitchen such as the frozen yogurt machine and iconic Hockaday meals. Both have had experience from culinary school and working in restaurants, as well as love to cook Italian food.

“We’re going to bring delicious food with healthy options always available,” Flannery said. “Once we get settled, my hope is that we can start using ideas from the community, as well as our own, to give Hockaday their own unique, excellent dining service.”

Even though Hockaday is ending a 113-year-old system, SAGE will be ushering in new ideas, food and resources that Coats believes will benefit the Hockaday community.

“At the end of the day, [Hockaday] is going to get something better for less which is a win-win for our families,” Coats said.

– Maria Harrison – Asst. Perspectives Editor