School menu marketing pays off

Increase student participation by highlighting visuals, values and choices.
Students choose food from a school cafeteria food line.

With USDA national school lunch and breakfast program waivers expiring soon, school nutrition  program funding is likely top of mind. One revenue strategy is increasing student participation, and marketing your menu is a great place to start. 

You work hard every year to create an appetizing menu, but don’t stop there. Think like a restaurant—if they weren’t marketing their menu, would you bother dining there? 

For K-12 schools, the payoff of more participation is money to recruit new staff, raise wages or offset rising food costs. Here are areas to consider when marketing your menu:

Use visuals

It’s true: People eat with their eyes. Give students a visual of new menu items. If it’s a prepared item, ask the manufacturer for an image to post with the menu both online and in the cafeteria. Taking it a step further, branding your cafeteria’s food-prep stations can establish loyalty for your school nutrition program. 

Share your story

As part of Gen Z, K-12 students care about protecting the environment. Do you track food waste or use compostable items? Research shows people are more likely to purchase from organizations sharing their values. The same holds true for students. By sharing your story, you earn the trust of students and families as a smart choice for their dining dollars. 

Choice is king

Similar to popular quick-service restaurants, students seek dining options that put them in control. Whether you have a coffee bar, salad bar or any type of food bar, market this to students as a way to give them control. This also cuts food waste, because students are more likely to eat the food they choose.

To help you with marketing your menu, Gordon Food Service has a number of resources available. Check out the Great for Schools page on Gordon Experience for more information.

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