Seven ways to improve your school’s dining program for less than $1,000!

Summer’s here and school’s out! Schools across the country are making the most of the next month with improvements and upgrades to delight and serve students when they return. You might not be able to squeeze an entire end-to-end dining hall renovation in before the first day of school, but you can still make mini-transformations that will delight your diners and boost the value (and satisfaction!) associated with your school’s dining program. 

Here are a few quick, cost-effective ideas you can implement right now: 

Re-think your Menu Display

Your posted menu is often the first encounter your students have with the day’s dining options. What impression are you making? Changing up the way you announce student options can make those choices feel fresh and appealing. Consider a mounted digital monitor, decorated poster board, or even giving classrooms the “honor” of designing and decorating the public menu board. Show students you’re proud to serve what’s on the plates this week with a creative, eye-catching display.

Communicate in Advance

A little preparation can mean a big boost in satisfaction! If you don’t already, make plans to send a weekly menu email to your school’s families, or simply post the menu at a regular day and time to Facebook or another social media channel. Families will appreciate the heads-up, students will feel more in control of their choices, and you’ll probably notice an uptick in participation as students get familiar with their options in advance. 

Speed up the Fast Lane

Have a few consistent, grab-and-go type items on your menu? Create an express line dedicated to serving those options to save students (and staff) time. Students in a hurry will appreciate the quick service, kids waiting in line for the hot bar will have a shorter wait, and you’ll serve everyone at their own speed. Satisfaction is all about options and choices, and splitting lines is another easy, low-cost way to meet student needs. 

A Fresh Coat goes a Long Way

This one’s no secret, but freshening paint and color makes everything feel new and improved. There’s no reason you have to stick to the same old color! Consider a new, bright color; incorporate a fresh palette by painting each wall a different hue. Or, get super creative with a mural—bonus points if you can engage your school’s incoming senior class, art club, or a talented alumnus to create a custom mural for your space! 

DIY Holidays

Several of our onsite dining service teams incorporate Theme Days, featuring a special menu, staff in costume, decorated dining space and other fun celebrations. It costs almost nothing to plan and celebrate “Backwards Day,” “College Day,” or “Book Character Day,” but students and families will always remember the fun you brought to the school experience. This one’s an especially big hit with the younger grades! 

Naming Names

Create a connection between your dining services team and your students and staff with a simple, low-cost solution: Name tags! Whether you use the classic peel-and-stick kind or have reusable name tags printed, this upgrade is a no-brainer. Just knowing someone’s name helps a dining space feel like a warm, welcoming place to eat and recharge. If you already incorporate name tags into your dining program, take it a step further and feature one dining staff member per week (or month) with a spotlight email, bulletin board display, or other special “get-to-know-you” recognition. 

Naming Tables

This one’s the simplest of all: make mealtime feel special by assigning names to each table. You’ll help create a sense of place and community and delight your diners with a little something special. People—especially kids—love to identify as a group or team, and named or themed tables are an instant way to add a special detail to their day. All it takes is a simple sign or table tent. You can even change the names each quarter with a different theme, from favorite TV shows to famous world landmarks. Meet me in the dining hall- we’re eating in France today! 


How do you make your dining experience feel special?