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Philosophy and Benefits of Food Courts

Increase Student Participation and Revenue
in your Food Service Program

Table talk given at CSBA Conference- December 12, 2003

  1. Economics of Food Service
    1. Food Service is the only program in the school that makes money.
      • All other programs are expenses to the school district, but a well run Food Service program can be a tremendous asset to most school districts.
    2. In most districts, rarely do the numbers of students participating in the dining program exceed 50-60%- and there is always room to grow student levels in the program- thereby increasing revenue for the Nutrition Services Department
      • Free and Reduced participation on a daily basis
      • A la carte cash sales
    3. Multiply the number of students at your school by $2.14 (the USDA reimbursement for free lunch students) and you will have a close approximation of the total possible revenue per day TIMES 180 days in the school year = total possible revenue for the program.
    4. Now contrast that to the amount that your food service program is bringing in on a daily basis, and you will see the opportunity to grow the revenue.
  2. Philosophy of Food Court
    1. Kids are different today. They are not sophisticated, but they are EXPOSED to design and décor concepts in their dining via Fast Food Restaurants.
      • McDonalds™ Spends Millions of dollars to attract your students.
        Don't fight it – copy it!!
    2. Demographics are changing. For many students, a hot breakfast and lunch at school are the only well put together meals they will get daily, and for many of them — the weekend is a nutritional disaster. With the need to have a nutritious diet — it is more important than ever that School Food Service captures these students.
    3. Due to safety concerns, there is a continuing trend to Closed Campuses - where students are not allowed to go away for lunch. Even though students see this as a Right of Seniorhood, this is a definite trend from a liability aspect.
      • • Making the cafeteria attractive and inviting to the students eliminates the controversy over students being forced to eat on campus. (It removes the statements that "You are forcing us to eat in the yucky, old cafeteria- when we were going out to a nice restaurant!)
    4. I will ask one question: If you were a student at your school, would you look forward to eating in your current cafeteria for 180 days a year for 4 years?
    5. Getting input from students on how their dining room will look transforms student behavior because they are Stakeholders in the process of change.
    6. The cafeteria period is the only time of the day when students can interact with their friends. Learning socialization skills and proper eating habits is a positive by-product of their school experience and growth as people.
  3. Benefits to the School.
    1. Generally the cafeteria has a stigma that it is the place where only the
      Free and Reduced kids eat – peer pressure is very strong.
      • Change the environment and you eliminate this stigma by making the new dining room a place where all students want to be.
    2. Discipline problems in a Food Court are lessened because the kids want to be in the room- and results in increased student satisfaction.
    3. Creates positive publicity because you now have happy, smiling students coming into a room to get nutritious food.
    4. Greater sign up of students who are Free and Reduced because they want to be part of the program.
      • The State provides a different threshold for SAT-9 test scores for schools with high Free and Reduced student populations- with resultant award of state funds based on test scores.
    5. The Room is nice enough to be utilized for other activities:
      • PTA
      • Staff meetings
      • In Service training
      • Outside school Groups
      • Catering by the Food Service department is possible- utilizing the existing kitchen infrastructure that is normally unused after the lunch period.
    6. PROJECT LEAN- The new health initiative of the California Department of Health promoting the trend toward healthy diet choices by students.
      • The epidemic of obesity and diabetes, along with Food Eating Disorders makes it important that students learn healthy eating habits. Even though students get only 20% of their meals at school, this is an opportunity to teach them proper dietary choices- as it is the only area where they will learn these necessary life skills.
  4. Elements of Change in the Dining Program.
    1. With student input, create themed dining rooms with significance to the students.
    2. Create school spirit by highlighting the school mascot and nickname to create school identity and pride.
    3. Brand the cafeteria with a nickname to change student perception of the area.
      • Example is Visalia/El Diamante High School with "The Pick and Shovel Café". The students don't say they are going to the cafeteria, but they are heading to the Pick and Shovel.
    4. Put memorabilia boxes around the room highlighting school organizations and groups with history at the school. Kids can identify with this presentation and it creates spirit.
      • Example of Visalia/Golden West High School boxes with memorabilia of Chorus' trip to perform in New York City – including programs and souvenirs of this meaningful trip.
    5. A jukebox controls the noise level in the dining room. Kids want to hear the music and do not speak louder that the volume level set by administration on the songs.
    6. 6. Booths in the room give the area a Fast Food Restaurant look, and utilize wall space that is normally lost area in the cafeteria. This allows an increase of 20% or more in the seating capacity of the new dining room.
    7. Enclosed trash units.
      • You wouldn't eat in a restaurant that had large, overflowing open trash units next to your table. Students don't really like it either.
      • Kids are trained by McDonalds™ to walk over to the trash unit, place their tray inside the flipper door, shake the food off, and then place the tray on top of the trash unit.
      • No more "3-point shots" that miss and go all over the floor.
    8. Divider half walls segment the room and act as visual architectural elements to create different spaces in the room.
    9. Plants and greenery humanize the dining room.
    10. Artwork on walls highlights the central theme and provides scale to a large room by breaking up a long, bare wall area.
    11. Provide multi-purpose use of the room utilizing either moveable pedestal tables with individual chairs, or mobile folding tables to allow easy changeover in the room layout.
      • Example of performing arts theatres at San Bernardino/Arroyo Valley High School, and South Whittier/Graves Middle School).
    12. 3-Dimensional artwork creates "WOW" effect in the room.
      • • Example of Compton/Roosevelt Middle School large lions head on the wall.
      • Example of San Bernardino/San Bernardino High School '57 Chevy coming out of the wall.
  5. Benefits to your schools by transforming cafeterias into Food Courts
    1. Increased student participation in the nutrition program- translating into increased revenue for the Food Service Program.
    2. Greater exposure of students to acquiring proper healthy dining habits.
    3. Use of the room by other student and community groups as it is now a pleasing environment.
    4. Positive Publicity for the school.
    5. Impetus for upgrade of other areas of the campus.

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