How Good Design Improves The School Dining Experience28-09-2015
A pleasant dining experience is vital in schools, to encourage pupils to eat healthy meals in an environment where they feel safe. As discussed in our article ‘Are school dining halls learning environments?’ we show how dining halls are crucial to a student’s well-being and social development. If you feel that your dining area is in need of a refurbishment, or needs that extra something, then read on to find out how to improve the dining experience for your students.
Food for Thought
Healthy food is very important to keep children in good shape and to improve their energy levels. With a worrying number of obese children in the UK, focus on healthy lunches is vital to improve this. School meals must meet the school food standards to ensure healthy, balanced meals for school children. Great tasting and nutritious food is the first step to a good dining experience.
Dining hall furniture should not be neglected. An article about the importance of better eating environments published by Education Business underlines the fact that an improvement on the food quality is useless unless schools provide a good dining environment for the students. There are many ways to improve the aesthetic of a school breakout area with new furniture.
Dining and breakout furniture is available in a range of styles and sizes, and the seating and table layout will influence the dining experience for students. Using individual chairs and a variety of different seating types is a popular choice for secondary and adult spaces to create a café style environment. Primary schools favour folding units that are space efficient and easy to set up and put away, such as these dining and breakout tables.
Dining furniture should be comfortable to ensure an enjoyable break time. Dining furniture will last for years if it is built for purpose with hygienic finishes and appropriate materials.
Open kitchens are always a good thing: it demystifies the food preparation. It helps pupils to realise that the food they eat is the result of a hard work from the cooks. This teaches them that food is a valuable resource which should not be wasted and encourages them to finish their meals.
Moreover, open kitchens provide another feature: the smell of food. Developing children’s sense of smell is important and will enhance the enjoyment of the meals.
Customisation is Key
Giving a name and a specific theme to the canteen can make it an appealing place that seems like a separate entity to the rest of the school. This can enhance the view that the dining hall is like a restaurant, encouraging children to behave and helping view the food provided as tasty and healthy. Re-painting or adding colourful graphics to the walls can help modernise the dining environment and add positive messages to the space. This is also one of the most cost effective ways to update and refresh a dining area.
Lighting, Acoustics and Temperature
Lighting, noise levels and temperature are three key factors to take into account. Putting thought into your dining hall lighting ensures the environment is welcoming and pleasant, and ensures that the students can see what they are eating. A bright environment and pleasant surroundings allow students to enjoy the social aspects of eating.
Excessive noise can make mealtimes unpleasant and have a significant effect on behaviour. Acoustic wall panelling like our VersaWall range and soundproofing on the ceiling can reduce reverberated sound for a comfortable and calm environment.
The temperature of the room is also very important – if children are too cold or hot they will not take the time to eat their meal. If they eat too quickly as a result of being uncomfortable in the room, their digestion process can be affected which often leads to drowsiness during the afternoon. Moreover, not finishing their meal is even worse for their health! Therefore, ensuring that the room is at the right temperature is crucial.
More Time to Eat
A streamlined queuing system is important as it reduces the time children wait to be served and consequently provides them with more time to eat their meal. This can be achieved by improving the payment method or by creating different queue lines depending on the meal students want to take.
If children feel rushed and don’t have time to digest their meals this can impact on their energy levels, concentration and health.
Improving the look and feel of the dining hall will help it become a place where children will want to eat and socialise. Many schools might not be able to afford the luxury of a total refit of their dining area but there are many affordable ways to improve a pupil’s dining experience. Good quality furniture with the correct finishes should be able to stand up to dining usage for years. Value options can still look great with a well thought out design and a splash of colour.
To discuss how we can help with your dining area, call our interior designer who can help with your space planning, colour schemes and furniture selection on 020 8641 1000, or send an email to [email protected]