Student-led Instagram account partners with FLIK

Credit: Jen Allan
Everyone’s favorite – Caesar salad i- s a staple on the lunch menu. It typically gets rave reviews.

Beginning in October of 2020, sophomores Jennifer Allan and Emily Koch started a lunch review account as a joke; however, it has drawn in support and brought changes, bettering students’ and teachers’ experience at lunch.
That fall, there was a trend on the app TikTok that revolved around reviewing lunch at colleges, and Jen and Emily thought this could be a funny idea for Hackley. The current account has stayed true to the original idea, except it has become more serious with Flik and Michael Collichio, the head of dining services, involved. The account is @hacklunch on Instagram, with a following of 272 at last check-in.
For their first lunch review on the baked ziti, they racked up many likes and comments. The account grew pretty quickly, largely because it was entertaining to see everyone’s thoughts on the food. It began with being followed by predominantly sophomores as Jen and Emily spread the word to their friends, but about a month later the account was more widely followed as word spread out to upper schoolers and faculty; even some middle schoolers and parents came across the account.
Steve Bileca, Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs, reached out to Emily and Jen offering to put them in touch with Mr. Collichio. Jen explained that the email was “a very positive response from the school”, and resulted in an in-person meeting with Mr. Bileca. They were then put in touch with Mr. Collichio, and the account began to feel much more official to the girls.
Their first meeting with Mr. Collichio was in December, and now they meet with him periodically to update him on their peers’ feedback that they receive via the account. There is a link to a google form in the account’s bio where anyone is free to give feedback, and the account’s DMs are always open as well.
Jen and Emily definitely started off with harsh reviews on the food, leading to Mr. Collichio telling them about Flik having had corporate meetings, where the account was brought up and shutting it down had been suggested. There was hesitation from Flik, but then it was decided that the criticism could be taken into account and actually be very helpful. A partnership between the account and the dining employees to improve everyone’s experience at lunch was formed.
Jen said that she “expected the Flik employees to care about the reviews, but they would not be offended by it”. What she never imagined was that Flik would want to work with them and found it amusing that their account was significant enough for the staff at Flik to have meetings about their account.
Mr. Collichio explained that the account was brought to his attention by some of his colleagues that work in marketing at the Flik Corporate Office in Rye Brook.
“My initial response was less than enthusiastic, admittedly”, he said and noted that he’s someone who does not like social media and “considers them a bit of a time suck and more of a sounding board for the irritating than a platform for meaningful communication.”
However, Mr. Collichio poked around the account and recognized potential because of the honest and relevant feedback and that students seemed much more likely to interact with the account instead of the traditional, “Let’s Talk Flik” platform.
Emily and Jennifer have brought about some changes in lunch based on what their peers want and the reviews on the food. The first thing they did was bring back salt and pepper packets, which may seem like a small change but really “makes a big difference in the flavor of the foods”, according to Jennifer. Very quickly after they were taken away, the girls made sure that they brought it up in meetings and brought it back.
Jen and Emily also advocated for better chip options, which led to the recent addition of Doritos, which is very exciting. All around, their reviews also better the Hackley lunch experience because they prove helpful in deciding what students want for lunch.
Sophomore Zara Yusaf said, “I have definitely thought about what other students have said about the lunch options before I get my lunch”. Even faculty like Ms. Tranchida, and Andy King, Director of Upper School, have expressed support for the account which is always appreciated.
Mr. Collichio thinks the account continues to hold potential and has made a few modest modifications to lunch, which were simple but effective. He has high expectations for the account’s future, adding, “If we continue our work together for the remainder of the school year and then pick it up again when classes resume again in the fall, I see this page really beginning to take off.”
Jennifer and Emily post reviews every day and a very unique aspect to their posts are the fun hashtags referencing various things that happened throughout the day. In the future, they hope to work on promotional things for events and speciality lunches with Flik and next year they plan to be more involved and help with the preparation of meals.
Mr. Collichio said that Jen and Emily are a pleasure to partner with and is impressed by “their honesty and their willingness to dialogue with me about what’s really going on in our dining rooms”. It is important to keep a balance in the relationship and maintain purity and authenticity. Mr. Collichio said that he does not want to intrude too much in the conversation and “Jen and Emily have had some great suggestions on how I could participate without mucking up the works.”