Catering is an often underutilized source of extra revenue for in-house foodservice departments, especially in K-12 schools. Just how much it was underutilized at the Cartwright (AZ) K-8 School District outside Phoenix was made clear by how much revenue jumped once the catering program was positioned and marketed more effectively.
While the foodservice department had always been available to provide catering to school functions, the service historically wasn’t promoted and as a result many events were serviced by outside providers.
That changed last year, when the foodservice department compiled and published an attractive catering book that laid out menu options by daypart. Complete with quality photography, price information and answers to frequently asked questions, a copy was furnished to all district principals and secretaries, and also posted online in PDF form.
The result was a leap in catering revenues from around $40,000 to almost $150,000 annually.
“We have lots of functions going on at our schools,” explains Foodservice Director Diane Gruman. “Every school every month does a coffee talk or breakfast with their parents, and then there are volunteer lunches and dinners and teacher luncheons. And rather than having them purchase food from outside we thought we would get that revenue and keep the money within the district.”
At catered events, which range from standard meetings to more elaborate functions, the department uses quality serving equipment and tablecloths. The serving ware consists of attractive clear plastic plates and black plastic “silverware.”
“We also had some nice chafing dishes that weren’t being used before,” Gruman offers.
Events that the department catered have included not only staff meetings and parent/teacher get-togethers, but also presentations from outside groups to district gatherings. The biggest event is a welcome-back continental breakfast all staff—some 2,500 people, that is held in one of the high school gyms.
The extra revenue helps support the foodservice department’s $13 million budget. “It also gives my employees an opportunity to earn a little more money and it certainly helps spotlight our program and what we do,” Gruman says.
Cartwright is a growing district with about 20,000 students that has qualified for Provision 2.