5 Ways to Increase Participation with Customizable Menu Options
Students enjoy expressing themselves. Their choices are statements of their individuality and, more and more, they are seeking that personalization in the foods they eat. Here are some tips for increasing lunch participation by providing customizable menu options.
1. Build on the success of salad bars. Self-serve salad bars have proven to be a popular choice with all ages. Consider dedicating an area at secondary sites for a customizable entree bar – sandwiches, entrée salads, burritos, or tacos are all great options.
2. Implement a system to avoid long wait times. “We pre-portion all of the ingredients and move students through in less than a minute,” explains Scott Soiseth of Turlock Unified, where they’ve introduced build-your-own sandwich and burrito bars.
3. Think outside the traditional serving line. Naomi Shadwell, Nutrition Services Director for Oceanside Unified, used USDA Equipment Assistance grant funds to purchase Duke and Multiteria carts for their burrito bars at five secondary sites.
Alternatively, is there an underutilized classroom or storage area on one of your sites? Engage the principal about converting it to a special serving area for customized lunch options. They may be excited to serve as a pilot site for something new to the district.
4. Balance labor and food costs. Many of the items that are ideal for customizable lunch options are available through USDA Foods, which can keep food costs low. Think deli meat and cheese or chicken, beef, beans, tortillas and rice. This may help offset any additional labor needs.
5. Borrow a technique from your local deli. Rather than waiting until the lunch rush, implement a paper or online order form that lets students submit their orders in advance, like at the local deli. When the lunch bell rings, students’ selections are ready to go, maximizing their time to eat and socialize while boosting your customer satisfaction.