I am a big believer in the value of mobile carts. They can serve as condiment stations, “delivery vehicles” for breakfast and snack programs outside the cafeteria, and as a place to offer toppings without slowing down the service line.
Here are lessons learned from my work with schools across the country:
- Invest in something large enough and sturdy enough. A repurposed AV gear cart is too limited. There is an affordable range of carts on the market.
- Think beyond ketchup and mustard. Offer Ranch dressing, Sriracha, hot sauces, and yogurt. Burgers on the menu? Offer lettuce and tomatoes.
- Put napkins, forks, and spoons on the cart to speed up the serving line. (Fast food restaurants do this to expedite service.)
- Pre-portioned condiments create less mess and are easier to track. Some kids will grab several packets, but this will not bankrupt you. (I promise, there is no black market for condiments operating in the hallways of your school.) Let students “have it your way” and they are more likely to buy those burgers…
- Display signage on the front of the cart and above it. This is a branding opportunity and, from a practical standpoint, when students can see the path they need to take, it prevents bottlenecks.
- Toppings deserve some presentation-love, too. Lettuce and tomatoes look more appealing against a black, translucent container than in a stainless steel bin.
- Assign someone to monitor the top it off station so it remains neat, clean and well stocked.
- If your schedule dictates a large lunch crowd, rather than multiple seatings, consider positioning two carts, spread out to encourage traffic flow.
- Position your top it off carts for self-service from either side, rather than against a wall.
- The ideal location for your cart(s) will vary with your cafeteria layout, but a qgood rule of thumb is to position them 30’ to 40’ from the main serving line.