In this climate of fierce competition in the food service industry, even schools have to work hard to maximize profits, increase meal participation and eliminate waste. With that in mind, here are the leading school menu items of 2009…
1. Milk is the number one school-prepared menu item—consumed by 77% of children according to a study conducted by R&I, A 24 cu. ft. milk cooler helps serve high volumes quickly without causing bottlenecks. Also make sure to have plenty of sturdy, dishwasher safe milk tumblers to help cut down on waste from disposable styrofoam cups.
2. Chicken was also named one of the leading school-supplied foods and beverages by R&I. Moreover, a school foodservice trend identified by FE&S Magazine has been a shift toward more combi-cooking in an attempt to accommodate more healthful menu offerings. Preparing chicken in a combi or convection oven offers more options for health-conscious foodservice operators.
3. In spite of the pressure schools are under to provide healthy meal options to students, French Fries are still among the top menu items in K-12 Schools according to the NPD Group. But here’s the good news: frying has made leaps and bounds in the last few years in terms of health, and Frymaster offers a number of solutions for fit frying, including a buying guide for choosing the right fryer and oil, tips for loading and cleaning the unit and guidelines for proper filtration. According to Frymaster, the best units for preparing French Fries are gas fryer #300-068, electric fryers ##300-075 and #300-014 and Dean electric fryer #300-070.
4. According to Technomic, 48% of consumers say they eat a variety of at least 11 different sandwiches over a one-month period, and sandwiches were also among the top school-supplied foods and beverages in NPD’s “Lunchtime Mealscape” study. The sandwich presents a tremendous opportunity for school foodservice operators to offers quick, healthy, made-to-order meal options. Sandwich/salad units are key for storing and serving fresh uncooked sandwich ingredients like deli meats and cheeses, vegetables and sauces and dressings. Other key sandwich equipment includes conveyor toasters and heated proofing/holding cabinets to keep bread warm and fresh.
5. Pizza, according to Food Management Magazine “appears on nearly every menu, every cycle and every day part” in the non-commercial market. FM says pizza may be the most flexible and all-purpose offering in a typical noncommercial operator’s menu mix, and their research suggests that, if anything, the importance of this role has no place to go in the future but up. In addition to a high output pizza oven to feed your masses of hungry schoolchildren, consider equipment to more effectively market and display your pizza offerings, including merchandisers, menu boards and neon signs.
6. Also popular among school children are fresh fruits and salads. Cold food bars offer the portability and flexibility needed by school foodservice operators to offer a variety of fruit and salad options. Also consider food storage containers to cut down on waste by preserving fresh ingredients longer.
7. A study by the School Nutrition Association in 2009 showed that almost 2/3 of school nutrition programs now offer a vegetarian school lunch on a consistent basis, compared to just 22% in 2003. Vegetarian options often include entrée salads and vegetarian pizza with whole grain crust, beans and rice, yogurt, sunflower seeds, cheese-stuffed shells and veggie sandwiches like hoagies with cheese, red and green peppers, cucumber, lettuce and tomatoes. With all of these fresh ingredients in demand, it’s important for schools to have a plenty of to ensure products are kept fresh and don’t go to waste.Display cases and cabinets are an excellent way to market cookies at the point of sale, and if you’re already using an impinger oven to bake pizza, you’ll find it’s a great device for making cookies too—it seals in moisture and flavor and has a unique air flow design to bake more evenly than traditional ovens.
8. According to Food Management, cookies are the ultimate comfort food for all ages.
9. According to R&I, as childhood obesity has reached concerning proportions in the United States, school vending programs have fallen under closer scrutiny. In 2006, the American Beverage Association (ABA)—whose membership includes representatives from some of the largest soft-drink marketers—adopted new national guidelines for school beverage sales. The guidelines emphasize wider availability of bottled waters, no-sweeteners-added juices and low-calorie drinks. Easily market juices and other beverages with self-service air curtain merchandisers and display cases at the point of sale.
10. Many foodservice operations are trending away from bottled water in favor of filtered tap water, and for many foodservice operators, the change is welcome. According to R&I, if an operation can offer filtered tap rather than bottled water, it can earn points with green-minded diners (and their parents!)—and also cut purchasing costs and waste. Consider drop-in ice and water stations and water fillers, and remember: don’t neglect your ice machines! To achieve the best appearance and taste, replace your filters as often as the manufacturer recommends.