What is school food service quality? (part 1) : exploring perceptions of service quality among children and food service professionals in Sweden
Abstract: Background: Every year 260 million lunch meals are served in Swedish schools. To design sustainable meals that are eaten and appreciated by the children, not only the food is important but also to understand how the meeting between the Food Service Professionals (FSP) and the children, and part of the service provided, affects the children's overall meal experience. Objective: The purpose was to explore the perceptions of food service quality among children, and how FSP in school perceive and work with service during meal situations. Methods: The present study was the first qualitative phase of an exploratory mixed method study. Qualitative data was collected from six children 10 ≤ 13 years old, in five different Primary schools, and two FSP, from two different Primary schools, in south east of Sweden, through semi structured interviews. The quantitative study will be conducted spring semester 2021. Results: The study result showed that among the children and the FSP, service was perceived in terms of being “functional”, as well as “caring”. Functional referred to the importance of maintaining hygienic order in the school canteen, and to be able to answer questions regarding the content of the food. Service was also described by the FSP in terms of caring for the children and listening to their special needs. The FSP believed that their presence, in the canteen, was important for making the right decisions at the right time. Artefacts like food labels and the menu were interpreted as important service markers among the FSP. However, the artefacts could be perceived in the reversed way, as an expression of poor service quality among the children. Clearly, if the information meant that children’s desires and expectations were not satisfied; the perceived service quality could affect the overall meal experience in a negative way. Conclusion: The children perceived that service in the school canteen was about the FSP maintaining a hygienic order, in the canteen. Also, being close to the children, to be able to answer questions about the food's content, based on the children’s different needs, for example lactose-free, vegetarian, and pork-free. The FSP considered that the most important thing was to serve tasty food, prepared from scratch, and in doing that, include the different wishes from the children. In the meeting with the children, they stated that a commitment is created between the child, and that service quality was about having an eye for what needs to be done.
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