How branded menus can transform your school’s dining program.

Gone are the days of the industrial school cafeteria — today’s students and families expect more from a school dining program. Our students are accustomed to a “food court” experience, where options are easy to identify and assess and choice is king.

Most K-12 schools don’t have the ability to partner with national brands (bringing Chick-fil-A to campus, for example) the way our private college and university clients can. The good news: you can still create that branded, food-court experience with a little planning and brand savvy.

As a company, Pedestal Foods creates branded menus—a hallmark of our dining program.

Here are a few things we’ve learned from the experience:

Naming is Everything

Choosing a clear, clever name for a specific menu helps students understand what to expect and make quick choices according to their tastes and appetites. Our Delicioso pasta and pizza bar draws the fettuccine fans, our Comfort Kitchen offers a taste of home cooking, and our Good Livin’ salad bars appeal to students who want a healthier option. FastBreak Grab & Go catches the eye of students on the go, and burger lovers make a beeline for The Grill Spot. We think of each station as its own mini-restaurant; strong names and identities help our clients’ students see them that way, too.

Branded Stations Ease Traffic Snags

In any Pedestal Foods dining room renovation, student traffic is a huge consideration. Having branded, defined stations opens the door for a more strategic dining room layout. Because we know our stations and have a good idea of how each menu will perform, we can avoid traffic backups by keeping ultra-popular pizza and burger stations separated, for example, and promote healthy choices by putting the salad station front and center. The result? Students get what they need faster, with more time to enjoy their meal; service is swift, staffing is more accurate, and satisfaction is through the roof.

Visual Identities Boost Value

There’s a huge difference between a tiny placard that reads “spaghetti” and a professionally designed suite of posters, hot bar cards, signs, and menus promoting a hot, yummy pasta bar. Years ago, we took a cue from commercial establishments and created our own professional, appealing, and distinctive looks for each menu and station. Those logos and slogans go a long way! Investing in visual branding significantly boosted the perceived value of our menu items, both in taste and cost. (And now, our clients reap the benefits!)

Branded Menus Improve Your Bottom Line

Whether it’s a build-your-own-bowl counter, a fresh salad bar, or a dedicated pizza stand, branded menus make the food more appealing and the experience more enticing—which means increased participation and profits. It doesn’t take a full overhaul or a to-the-studs renovation to start using branded menus to grow your dining program.

Is your school using branded menus to improve participation and service?
How did you decide what menus to create, and what was your branding process?
If you haven’t created your own branded menus yet, we can help. We’d be happy to share everything we’ve learned!