With demographics constantly changing in the cafeteria, let’s kick off your marketing efforts by discovering how to define your market and menu within your school nutrition program.

Define Market & Menu

Melting Pot of Your Cafeteria

A melting pot is a place where different types of people live together and gradually create one community.

We can see a microcosm of this in the cafeteria since most students are likely to self-segregate and eat with those who are most like themselves.

As far as food selection, they typically consume food most commonly found in the home. Keep these things in mind when it’s time to introduce new foods and remember that acculturation is a gradual process.

What is Marketing?

Let’s take a look at what marketing entails.

Marketing is made up of many activities, including promoting, advertising, merchandising and selling. The main functions of marketing are defining wants and needs, supplying products, informing of availability, describing benefits and selling at fair prices.

Your Market Segments

In order to correctly target your audience, we must first define our market segments. A segment is simply a group of consumers with common needs, interests, and priorities and can be defined by geographic, demographic, behavioral, psychographic, occasional and cultural lines. We can define culture as a shared set of beliefs, customs, practices, attitudes and values based on ethnicity, nationality, language and religion.

A segment is simply a group of consumers with common needs, interests, and priorities and can be defined by geographic, demographic, behavioral, psychographic, occasional and cultural lines. We can define culture as a shared set of beliefs, customs, practices, attitudes and values based on ethnicity, nationality, language and religion.

We can define culture as a shared set of beliefs, customs, practices, attitudes and values based on ethnicity, nationality, language and religion.

Although you may not have given it much thought, schools already host a number of segments. The school itself, consisting of administration,

The school itself, consisting of administration, teachers, and staff would be the first segment. We can also view parents/guardians, the government (or regulating entities), community, media and of course the kids as additional segments.

In terms of participation, the segments most likely to participate (in order) are free meal students, younger students, male students and rural students.

Defining Your Audience

Before we start crafting messages, we must first have an understanding of our audience. This can be done in a number of ways.

Some of the more common and less costly ways are conducting informal interviews, small-group discussions, suggestion boxes, immediate feedback, sampling/tasting, social media and polls/surveys.

If conducting surveys, make sure you ask qualitative (more yes/no answer) questions and plenty of follow-up questions. For example, if a student expresses displeasure with a new food, ask why or what they didn’t like in particular.

Designing the Dining Experience

When creating a dining experience, take a look at the big restaurants if you need a good place to start. Successful restaurants are built around a solid menu that only serves popular and familiar foods. Themed menus can also increase

Successful restaurants are built around a solid menu that only serves popular and familiar foods. Themed menus can also increase participation if marketed correctly. The food is consistently high quality and served in a pleasant atmosphere with friendly personnel and fast service.

Since the school cafeteria environment does differ a bit from restaurants, schools must also remember that perception is important and they must also target parents, who place a high value on a food’s nutritional content.

Menu Planning

Once you have an idea of who your audience is, take demographics into account when planning your menu.

For many schools across the nation, themed days normally do quite well in the cafeteria. Some common themes include continental, international, Fridays, meatless, Mexican and veggie.

One suggestion I’ve also heard was to plan something special for days where you are expecting adult visitors. This will be a good time to show the parents how tasty and nutritious your food is.

In the next installment of this series, we’ll take a look at how to effectively craft market messages that resonate with your specific audience.