A Lesson in School Foodservice

Grab-and-Go Helps High Schools Increase Revenue

 Harrison-High-School-3-dealer-shots-10-14Grab-and-go displays from Structural Concepts, Inc., at William Henry Harrison High School in West Lafayette, Ind.Today’s K-12 students are more sophisticated than previous generations, and they expect variety in their school foodservice selections — the same variety they get when they go off campus. In response to that demand, school foodservice directors are serving up a wider range of foods than ever before. But for many operations, the method of serving hasn’t changed at all. Though cafeteria serving lines are still predominant, they can feel old-fashioned to students and give an impression of overall lesser food quality.

Some smart foodservice directors are moving toward grab-and-go kiosks, which let students have control over their choices and allow more flexibility for staff. We asked Danielle McMiller, Vice President of Foodservice Sales & Marketing for Structural Concepts, Inc., about this growing trend.

Q: What are some trends of fresh food merchandising that are carrying over to school foodservice from other food venues?

Danielle McMiller: Foodservice operators are moving away from having a single, large display of fresh food to incorporating multiple, smaller displays throughout the site. This allows customers to experience fresh food cues throughout the entire visit rather than having to be directed to a specific area for food. Today’s population could be considered “free range.” We are most comfortable browsing at our own speed. Smart foodservice operators are realizing this trend and designing locations that satisfy the consumer’s desire to “do it their way.” This is what today’s students are experiencing off campus and are coming to expect in school foodservice.

Q. What benefits can grab-and-go bring to the foodservice operation?

DM: Displaying fresh food in a grab-and-go display provides the flexibility to display a greater variety of foods, giving students more choices and increasing satisfaction. Open front displays can be incorporated into the serving area in many ways from free-standing multi-shelf upright models to displays built into and under counters. Having multiple points where students can select food increases the speed of service during the serving period and aligns with off-campus operator trends. Operators have shared increases in sales with grab-and-go displays ranging from 50 to 400 percent. In addition to higher student satisfaction, grab-and-go displays also increase revenue.

Q. What should an operator consider when looking at adding grab-and-go equipment?

DM: First, consider the type and amount of food that needs to be displayed to support the serving period and select the style of equipment to support that capacity. Then, evaluate the need for rear loading. Not all model styles offer rear access for loading. Next, consider how students can freely move throughout the space. Place the grab-and-go equipment away from HVAC vents, outside doors and windows to prevent performance issues. Refer to manufacturer guidelines on equipment placement. Finally, evaluate food packaging and a merchandising plan that is attractive and in keeping with off-campus operators. It’s as much about creating an experience as it is about serving food.