10 Easy Steps to Modernize Your School Cafeteria

10 Easy Steps to Modernize Your School Cafeteria

First impressions can be everlasting and it can play quite an influential role in transforming student dining experiences. School nutrition programs must have an eye for detail that ensures the school cafeteria is not only aesthetically appealing but is also fully equipped to interest the student customer. K-12 aesthetics is a major part of driving sales and ensuring customer engagement throughout the year.

An inviting, spacious and bright space builds trust and inspires staff, students and stakeholders. When conscious effort is put into aesthetically enhancing a cafeteria it improves recognition and is a great support in marketing activities. Modern contemporary designs are not only pleasing to the eye but also embodies your passion to serve your customers the best and is an indicator of your commitment to excellence.

Students visit the cafeteria almost daily and there could be no better way than to brand it in a way that promotes healthy eating choices and gets your student customers to return to the table. It could be that your cafeteria is doing a decent job with the dining area aesthetics, however some minor enhancements can drastically change the overall look of your cafeteria. From incorporating tiny details into your K-12 dining area to complete overhauls you can spruce up your design and get your sales rolling.

Who are you targeting?

K-12 nutrition programs need to go about re-designing the school dining experience in a way that caters to appropriate age groups. School breakfast and lunch should be more rewarding and convenient and more than ever needs to create a socially-friendly environment where students can take a break from academics and simply enjoy quality time with their friends.

1. Spell It Out For The Elementary Children

Students aged between 5-10 years often face the dilemma of being unable to make quick decisions on the spot. They tend to ponder over what to eat and what not to eat and need some time in forming their opinions and preferences about what they would like to have for lunch. K-12 dining is all about understanding these unique preferences and assembling the meal components to appease to varying demands. Could incorporating ambient music and soft lighting with food-carts serving them on round tables, do the trick?

2. Mix Lunch-Time with Leisure Time

Around ages 11-13, middle school children are viewed as a group who wants to take control of their lunchtime experiences, yet need some guidance as to what will work best for them. This is where you take their buy-in in revamping the cafeteria on what they want from seating to the artwork that adorns the cafeteria walls. Most of them are of the opinion that a cozy place where they can chill out with their friends and read a book while eating would be an ideal option. Consider using a lounge type seating setup for an activity corner, to give things a kick start.

3. Breathe Some Life Through Artwork

Identify those parts of the cafeteria that are lacking on the parameters that define sophisticated and up-to-date K-12 cafeteria aesthetics. Choose a spot where artwork or a mural would uplift the entire aura of the room and get your art teachers and students to let their creativity out. Be open to any suggestions such as furniture movement to give them liberty of thought and expressions and let their skill and creativity breathe life into your cafeteria setting.

4. Provide Incentives To High-School Children

When it comes to high school students, the scenario is often completely different as the task at hand is all about convincing the student customers to stay on campus and eat rather than leaving open campuses for lunch. High-school cafeteria aesthetics need to be understood and incorporated with the right themes, pre-packaged meals, vending machines and student hotspots to provide an innovative environment for them to stay. Loyalty cards that could earn high-school students periodic reward points would be quite an incentive too. With technology on their finger-tips they prefer multi-tasking rather than waiting in long lines to get food.

5. More than Just A Cosmetic Remodel

K-12 aesthetics extends far beyond a simple cosmetic revamp. It encompasses every effort made to synchronize and streamline the different operations and put together a holistic student-centric dining experience. Here are some of the things that go into achieving that friendly, state-of-the-art contemporary look:

  • Freshly painted walls, wall graphics, build-outs and signage,
  • Industrial steel serving lines can be covered with vibrant vinyl wraps,
  • A variety of seating spaces from booths to high table-tops,
  • A well-lit ambience with both indoor and outdoor seating arrangement, and
  • Properly ventilated and centrally air-conditioned areas.

6. Renovate in Stages

For any K-12 dining environment, analyzing the space and planning the renovation beforehand is equally important. Architectural and design consultants who specialize in cafeteria transformation ensure that no stone is left unturned when ensuring attention to detail. Painting and construction should be scheduled conveniently during school breaks (i.e. summer, spring, Christmas or Thanksgiving). Wouldn’t your students just love the surprise when they returned to a completely revamped cafeteria?

7. Present In Functional, Flexible Equipment

The modern student doesn’t compromise on the way food is presented to him. A lot of thought and effort goes into custom designing and manufacturing Grab’ N Go carts that impart maximum flexibility and optimum temperature control. Section trays and dishware does not only keep the food in separate compartments but can also be used for portion control and to help student customers take only as much as they need, also helping in the K-12 operation’s sustainable waste management efforts. What could be better than that? Give it some thought and you’ll see great ideas materialize in front of you.

8. Menu upgrades also wins over customers

Student customers love to be heard and what could be better than serving them what they want to eat. Student taste tests are a surefire way to spice up boring, monotonous menus that students hardly take interest in. Don’t hesitate in making changes to your menu because student feedback will always help you determine what works for them and what doesn’t. Always take student buy-in before making a new addition. How about carrying out a midweek
testing of entrees that you plan to launch on Friday? That would surely be an interesting way to
get students to try out items and then vote for their favorite options.

9. Bringing technology to the K-12 dining halls

As part of a mobile friendly world, what could be a better way to modernize your cafeteria than to offer mobile Grab’ N Go carts and “Top It Off” stations with a wide range of condiments to choose from. Student customers can engage with their meals from home and pre-order even, so that there is less wastage.

Self-service options reduces the need for waiting in lines to get your order. Students and their parents can get instant updates on menu upgrades and newly launched and/or special promotions through their digital website which facilitates decision making and makes the student dining experience more interactive and fulfilling.

10. Professionalism at its Best

Personalizing the student experience plays a major role in transforming these instances from institutional to engaging. Contemporary times requires your branding, staff and all other stakeholders to be on the same page. For this purpose, comprehensive, thorough training programs are in place to help your cafeteria employees’ of every title. Professional training equips your staff to function at their optimum level.

Effective K-12 school nutrition operations know the art of customer service and go one step ahead to master that art. Giving your student customers that special attention, visiting them personally at their tables and adding that element of care when you take their order and serve them is the cornerstone of every successful K-12 cafeteria. From the K-12 aesthetics right down to the last ounce of cordiality that goes into building your brand, instilling trust and keeping your students customers engaged are all essential elements of a successful modern-day cafeteria.


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