Foodservice directors (FSDs) within K-12 are being tasked with creating new operating procedures for the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some districts have started declaring what their various service models might look like, but as the pandemic continues, anything can change in a moment’s notice. And, there’s more on the minds of FSDs than just planning for how, when and where they will serve meals. The top U.S. senator for education policy estimates that it would take $50 billion to $75 billion for K-12 schools to reopen safely this fall. Things like barriers, hand sanitizers, and other health and hygiene resources are an added expense that schools must now invest in to ensure they are properly prepared for reopening.
In addition to the funds that many districts have lost due to emergency feeding programs when the pandemic closed schools earlier in the spring, K-12 FSDs now also carry part of the burden of devising strategies that will help their school recoup and plan for a financially rocky year ahead.
The good news is that there are some creative strategies and new mobile ordering technologies that FSDs can implement that can help grow revenue and support the bottom line.
4 Ways To Grow Revenue With Mobile Food Ordering
School breakfast provides students a healthy start to the school day and has been proven to improve student performance and create calmer classrooms. In fact, according to No Kid Hungry, students who eat school breakfast attend, on average, 1.5 more days of school per year, and students who eat school breakfast score, on average, 17.5% higher on standardized math scores.
However, K-12 schools that have a more affluent student body typically have low breakfast program participation rates. School breakfast programs have gotten an undeserved bad rap as being a “poor kids” program, however, as the data shows, regardless of income status, students stand to gain great benefits of eating a healthy breakfast at school. With a little imagination, FSDs can help increase participation, and thus increase revenue. By selling “cool food,” like homemade granola bars or smoothies, changing the timing to be around 10am instead of 8am, and offering the food in a different area (like the courtyard), FSDs can position breakfast more as a “nutrition break,” offering kids the fuel they need to learn. This kind of model can further be enabled by mobile pre ordering, allowing parents to pre order their kids’ nutrition break snacks via their mobile phone or online. When it comes to the bottom line, these “nutrition breaks” can still be considered a reimbursable meal, which makes this idea a no brainer as schools look to make up money lost due to COVID-19.
For many schools that are planning for staggered attendance schedules or continuing distance learning, meal kits and grocery boxes may just be the ticket to diversifying revenue streams. Not only are meal kits and grocery boxes easy to make, but they can be made using the food that would have already been served on any particular day. Kits can be made and passed out a handful at a time, reducing the amount of operational time and investment needed. School dietitians and nutritionists can either do the cooking themselves and package up the food to go, or package up ingredients and even popular food items to be sold at retail (i.e. the beloved school chicken nuggets) for families to take home and prepare themselves. By adding mobile pre ordering, families can pre order their meal kits and grocery boxes, which can further help keep social distancing guidelines intact and foodservice staff better prepared for the week ahead.
A la carte sales have been a big topic of concern among FSDs as they try to figure out ways to incorporate new food preparation guidelines and social distancing. One of the more creative ways to get around this challenge and at the same time, increase revenue, is to start selling items in either “super sized” or bulk orders, and do it all via mobile pre ordering. For example, instead of selling a $.50 cent cookie, offer up a $10 pizza that kids can share among their friends. Venmo has become quite popular especially among teens, making group or super sized orders a very viable option. One student could purchase the pizza, and those sharing it can pay the student back with Venmo. Group orders on the other hand, are another option that can significantly increase transaction amounts. For example, instead of selling one $.50 cent cookie, package up the cookie with a sandwich, apple and a drink. If incorporating mobile pre ordering, FSDs can strategically upsell a la carte items (i.e. while inputting a reimbursable lunch, a student could add chips to their order). By focusing on listing a la carte items together or supersizing the items instead of just selling smaller, one off items, FSDs can significantly and easily increase margins.
In restaurant and retail foodservice, limited-time offers (LTOs) have become a popular way to introduce new menu items. According to Technomic, there has been a 64 percent increase in LTO launches, and for good reason. Seventy-two percent of millennials say new flavors and menu launches are an important attribute when visiting restaurants, and 30 percent of quick-service restaurant (QSR) customers would visit a limited-service restaurant they don’t normally visit for a unique LTO. LTOs with limited-time service have the power to drive new demand and interest, which can similarly help FSDs in the K-12 sector looking to find new opportunities to increase revenue. For example, an LTO for a secret pizza recipe can be exclusively offered through mobile pre ordering, helping drive students to use ordering technology, which can in turn, help FSDs plan inventories better, keep student customers engaged and ultimately create new revenue streams.
K-12 foodservice directors are being tasked with putting together new operating playbooks for the fall. But, they also carry the burden of needing to figure out ways to help offset money lost during the emergency feeding programs as well as the forthcoming dollars that will be spent on putting new safety measures in place. With some creative thinking, ingenuity, and the power of mobile food ordering, directors can certainly find new ways to bring in additional revenue and help their schools succeed in the year ahead.
Mike Craig is the Co-founder and Chief Customer Officer at Nutrislice, an Inc 500 SaaS company located in Denver, CO. Since he and his partners founded the company in 2011, he has driven the vision for the future of foodservice and technology and propelled Nutrislice to one of the fastest growing technology companies in its sector. Mike has helped shape the company’s strategy, sales, and marketing functions and now focuses his efforts on evangelizing the importance of providing healthy food options and exceptional experiences that consumers demand through digital platforms.