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What to Serve High School Students in Our Student Restaurant?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hello All!

I'm the chef instructor of a small rural high school in Arizona. My culinary arts department has an attached student operated restaurant. Our restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch from Tuesday through Friday. Monday is reserved for deep cleaning, academic instruction, and food deliveries.

My department is cash based. All of our funding for food and non-food supplies comes from the sale of food and beverages.

Our breakfast products typically include:

* El Monterey breakfast tornados: This a mini breakfast egg, sausage, and cheese burrito that's coated in batter. It's typically deep fried but our tornados are oven baked.

* Breakfast burritos: Either beef, chorizo, breakfast sausage, or bacon mixed with eggs, cheese, and fried potatoes in a flour tortilla.

* Breakfast sandwiches: scrambled egg with sausage and cheese on a toasted English muffin

Our lunch menu includes:

* Bean burritos
* Green Chile (pork 'n beef) burritos
* Mixed burritos (beans with green chile)
* flame grilled hamburgers and cheese burgers
* pizza bread (homemade Marinara sauce slathered onto 5 inch split hoagies), topped with cheese and pepperoni

In addition to our static lunch menu, we offer a daily plated meal. Popular meals have included: shrimp pasta alfredo, enchiladas with beans and Spanish rice, chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and country gravy, fried rice with eggrolls, and southern pan fried chicken served with a loaded baked potato. Surprisingly enough, I was even able to get our students to buy chicken schwarmas ... grilled chicken tossed with hummus, shredded lettuce, and chopped cucumbers rolled in pita bread.

A few days ago we made a pizza from scratch using our own pizza dough and Marinara sauce. This was hugely popular.

Less popular meals have been meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, lasagna, and anything with fish. I can understand the fish ... but I don't understand why the kids like pasta alfredo but not lasagna. I was also surprised when our meatloaf didn't sell as I have always thought of a good meatloaf as a downhome comfort food. Other unpopular meals have included chicken curry, beef with schnitzel, and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding.

In recent days I've acquired a 2 gallon capacity blender and we've been making shakes ... tropical shakes, classic chocolate and strawberry shakes, and most recently a chocolate parfait shake. The parfait was made with alternating layers of vanilla and chocolate shakes, fudge sauce, and shaved chocolate. It was topped with whipped cream and a Hershy's chocolate kiss garnish and was served in a clear disposable plastic glass so that our customers could see the alternating layers. (See picture below). As you might imagine given our target market, the shakes have been extremely popular.

Anyway, I'm always looking for new ideas on what to sell students. The clincher is that it has to be something they'll eat and the food production cost has to be under $2.00 because most students don't have more than $2.00 to spend on lunch.

Does anyone have any constructive suggestions?
post #2 of 14
Gee, when I was in high school there were just the fat old cafeteria ladies, well, never mind.

Chicken wings/tenders - buffalo, garlic parm, bbq? I can't tell from your message if you have deep fryer capability or not.

Some sort of philly cheese steak sandwich, maybe with slow roasted chuck? Or perhaps a Texas red style chili. Grilled cheese sandwich with roasted bell peppers? A macaroni and cheese dish with something like hot dogs, lil' smokies, sweet italian sausage.

It has been quite a while since I was in high school, I can't remember what I liked to eat way back when. Well, maybe roast mastadon was high on the list!

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hi Teamfat,

Thank you for your reply.

Yes, we have a deep fryer. We've recently cut back on its usage because the current sale of deep fried food products doesn't offset the cost of oil replacement.

The buffalo wings were a good idea. We've done that, but have broiled our wings instead of deep frying them.

I thought of a Texas red chile but for reasons unknown, the locals like green chile. They won't touch red. As an incidental note, classic American chili (hamburger, tomato sauce, and kidney beans) is known as "chili beans" in this area.

A homestyle mac and cheese might work. I'd probably pair this with grilled hotdogs. The Philly cheese steak also sounds like a workable idea. Thanks!

A few weeks ago I tried upgrading the concept of a hotdog by offering a grilled bratwurst. The students didn't know what a bratwurst was and wouldn't eat it. I wound up "recycling" the bratwurst by chopping it up and adding the meat to our breakfast burritos.

The kids are funny.

In some respect, they're typical teens. If it's fast food, they'll typically eat it.

On the otherhand, the kids have surprised me with their appreciation of chicken schwarmas (which were folded like giant tacos). They also surprised me with their enjoyment of pasta alfredo. Our pasta alfredo has been so popular that members of the marching band named a drum movement, "pasta alfredo." :)

Other items have had mixed success ... stroganoff, goulash, gypsy steak, cordon bleu, General Tso chicken, cacciatore, chow mein, pad Thai, and shrimp etouffe have been widely appreciated by our faculty as well as some of our students.

Oh ... and as far as the cafeteria goes, yes, we have a cafeteria. Most of the food products probably haven't changed much since you were in school ... though mastadon isn't on the menu. (GRIN) Typical cafeteria fare these days may include a small salad bar and a selection of yogurts. Frozen baked pizza or oven baked burgers are often on the menu along with canned ravioli, corn dogs and fish sticks. :eek:

Their best product is an Italian dunker ... toasted garlic bread with a rather tasty Marinara dipping sauce.

In general, our cafeteria attracts all of the students with free and subsidized lunches. Unless they're serving Italian dunkers, we typically get everyone else. Most of the faculty also dine with us.
post #4 of 14
Given the popularity of the Italian dunkers and your alfredo, sounds like some sort of meatball sandwich might be a hot ticket. Or perhaps a variety of sausage added to the pasta alfredo, if the per meal budget allows.

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
post #5 of 14
Watch it teamfat! I was one of those fat old ladies in the lunch room a couple of years ago. :p This sounds like the kind of program that was I was in for culinary school. We fed the trade school population. It's frustrating trying to feed school age kids now. They don't eat what we did when I was a kid. We liked chili, and I think that's still popular. Our favorite though we only got at Thanksgiving and that was turkey gravy over mashed potatoes. Some schools used puff pastry shells for that. Kids around here still like hamburger gravy on mashed and pizza casserole. (P.M me if you want that recipe. Very good and economical.) At the school where I worked, the kids always liked homemade soup, the sub line (order your custom sub sandwich) and the pasta bar which was spaghetti with either marinara, Alfredo or both with bread sticks. They also liked baked chicken if it was done right (they tended to pull it at 165 deg. confusing safe temp. with done right so the skin would never be brown and crisp.) They might like Swedish meatballs over noodles rather than meat loaf or maybe hamburger stroganoff. How about an Asian style stir fry? This school had a program where they had two lines. One was a burger, chicken nugget, hot dog & fries line (one each day) and another line that featured something else (pizza, pasta bar, sub line, tacos, etc.) Both lines included salad bar and soup in the price, or there was a cold sandwich for less. It was $2.25 at that time, but has since gone up. We were a for-profit caterig company that had the contract there, so you should do all right with the things I've mentioned. Taco salads are also popular. This was a Catholic school and one ash wednesday we ran scrambled eggs with hash rounds and Frenchtoast sticks. The manager was skeptical when she did it, but it was wildly popular. I would also recommend you do a student survey to see what the students would like to have and then see if any of it is feasible to do. Can help save money by avoiding the hit and miss thing. It actuallysounds like a fun job.
post #6 of 14
Look arou nd and see what is selling in the fast food places. This is what young people want. Include salads like Wendy s - Mc Ds etc. does. The trick to your place is limited menu , try to make 5 different items out of 1 protein entree. Ex. Chicken tenders buffalo style, Then as sliders with cheese, bacon and ranch dressing, Then Parmagianna style etc. Doing it this way keeps your cost down.
post #7 of 14
I have a lasagna recipe that they might like. It is more of a meat based sauce than tomato. My friends grand daughter and her friends called it lasagna pizza. Let me know if you want the recipe and I will grab it off my other computer.
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
That would be great, thanks! I'm intrigued as to why your granddaughter would refer to this as a lasagna pizza.

Thank you all for your replies. As I said, the kids are funny.

Salads are popular with adults, but not kids. Taco salads have had mixed success. We can't sell a taco salad using American chile ... but a garden salad topped with green chile served in an edible tortilla bowl has sold well.

The faculty will eat soups but the kids won't.

The meatball hoagies would certainly be worth trying given their interest in Italian dunkers. Thank you teamfat!

In the meanwhile, I've give some thought to supplementing our regular burgers (made from frozen patties) by adding a better quality burger made from fresh ground beef with caramelized onions, eggs, and various seasonings.

I'm also thinking of starting up a line of pizzas. Whenever we make our own pizza dough and sauce, the pizzas sell out within 10-15 minutes. We have a stand mixer and I'm thinking of having student groups use this mixer on a rotating basis to create pizza dough for the following day.

Pepperoni or Italian sausage pizza would sell well.
post #9 of 14
I tend to season this with more italian seasoning than the recipe calls for, the cheddar is optional but I like it. This is as far as you can get from traditional lasagna but it is tasty! :lol: Add salt as you see fit, I am a salt fiend so I don't put it in recipes I give out.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cheese lovers Lasagna

Recipe By :Mary Brown
Serving Size : 6 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Main Dish

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 pound hamburger
1/2 large onion -- chopped fine
2 cloves garlic -- or more if needed
1 pound mozzarella cheese -- slices or shredded
5 ounces parmesan cheese -- fresh grated if possible
8 ounces cottage cheese -- use ricotta if you want
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese -- shredded
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning -- or to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper -- or to taste
6 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 pound lasagna noodle

Brown the hamburger with the onions and garlic, add the tomato sauce and cook down until it isn't runny. Add the italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Let this simmer while the noodles boil. When the noodles are tender put a layer of meat in the bottom, a layer of noodles, another layer of meat, 1/2 the cottage cheese, 1/2 the parm, 1/3 the moz, 1/2 the cheddar. Add another layer of noodles and repeat with the last of the meat and cheeses except the moz. Another layer of noodles topped with the last 1/3 of the moz. Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours or until bubbly and the cheese is melted. Uncover the last 20 minutes to brown on top a bit. Let cool for 1/2 hour before cutting.
post #10 of 14
Wow- can I come work for you even though I'm 40?

What about plain old fajitas? Kids seem to love any old thing in a tortilla, and your leftovers would recycle easily into your breakfast line. Lots of ways to do those with cheaper cuts of meat (flap/tri-tip for beef, thighs for the chicken, I'd guess)

I like Ed's idea about recycling with things like the chicken fingers. You don't like buffalo sauce? Fine, they're sliders now. Don't like those? Great- it's parmigiana time. Same could go for the meatballs, swedish or otherwise.

Also, how about leveraging more veggies in there? Potato wedges with olive oil and rosemary disappear real fast when I have to feed a crowd. Steamed broccoli spears, anyone?
post #11 of 14
Quesadilla, but could add chicken, beef, pork, sausage. I think a vegie one would be good too with rajas, grilled onions, grilled zuchini. Also pupusas, tamales and so on. A tamale (wrapping removed) smothered with green chile and cheese and onions, yum. Not traditional, but good.

A Nacho plate--tricky to add vegie nutrition too though.

Might consider adding calzone as a pizza variation.

Similarly, empanadas (savory and sweet),

Do some lo mein.

Sounds like they're pretty good about eggs, maybe a fritatta as a side to some spaghetti. Also quiches. If those work well, maybe move them to a main course with other sides.

Mixed kabobs with rice or pita and hummus? You could even do these as kefte/meatballs

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #12 of 14
Have you considered asking the kids? I mean, why try guessing when your customer base is right there?

Maybe put together a survey of some sort, listing a number of dishes with descriptions and have them choose which ones they'd likely order.

Another possibility. Everytime you're thinking of introducing a new item, provide a small sample with whatever else they order that day. Include a resonse card for their comments.

Maybe take that a step further and offer a tastings plate, with an assortment of new items in sample form.

Lots of possibilities along those lines.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #13 of 14
Breakfast: Welsh rarebits. Toast burgers (toast with a hamburger inside with cheese melted on it). Muesli with fruit and yoghurt. Tuna melts (tuna and cheese mornay on a toasted doorstop)

Lunch meals: Curry-hot spicy, chicken, beef or lamb. Lots of veg and chilies thrown in. Serve on rice. I remember the cafeteria at university, the curry was so hot it was a race to see who would break out in a sweat first. But people lined up for it, it was their best seller. And those plates went back clean.

Shepherds pie. Nice saucy mince topped with mashed potatoes and maybe cheese melted on top. Could also be made as a veg option with varied veg in a cheese/parsley sauce. Baked potatoes with a filling - coleslaw, cheese, fried or raw onion, yoghurt, sour cream.

One thing I love is roast chicken and lettuce and mayo rolls, warm rolls, pulled roast chicken, shredded lettuce and light mayo. Hot roast beef/ corned beef rolls with horseradish and tomatoes and onions.

Good luck! :)

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

post #14 of 14
When I was a kid eating in the cafeteria, there were several things that the kids liked.

1. Sloppy joe hamburgers
2. Mashed potatoes and gravy
3. Triangular cut bread: 1 piece whole wheat, the other white, with real butter.
4. Sausage Pizza. They made these in huge commercial baking pans, and they actually were pretty darn good for the mid 1960's.

The whole lunch, including milk, was $0.35. If you wanted no milk, they wouldn't serve you. If you wanted two hamburgers, you were forced to buy two complete meals. A typical sloppy joe meal included the sloppy joe on a bun, two triangular slice breads with butter (that's one whole piece of wheat bread buttered and topped onto a white bread and sliced triangularly), giant gob of mashed potatoes, mass gravy (we liked to dip the triangular bread in the gravy), green peas (sometimes green beans), and a carton of white milk.


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