Food Service Merchandising Lessons from High School

If your high school was anything like mine, you may wonder how can faded plastic trays, walls stained by food fights and canned peas teach us about foodservice profits. Let’s exit the cafeteria and visit some high school classrooms to learn more. 

Food merchandising is often defined as an art and science.  Art class teaches design, aesthetics, color, technique in many mediums such as canvas, digital, sculpture, metal, wood, and fabrics. Translated to merchandising, artistry includes signage, display, themes, props, uniform, and graphics. Science studies define theories and boundaries of the physical world around us.  Science helps us understand how our minds, senses, eyes, ears, and nose respond to the words, visuals, ideas, smells, and displays we observe. It helps us as professionals analyze and optimize how factors like product mix and placement, sales data, or lighting impact our ability to profit from our menu items.  

Since we all learn new things every day, let me propose three after-school activities to raise your foodservice merchandising profitability G.P.A.:

  1. Studying & Homework: Read industry specific newsletters and review display supplier catalogs for new ideas to implement today.  Many niche foodservice publications offer free subscriptions to qualified industry professionals.
  2. Team Sports: Work as a team to leverage your team's unique “art and science” strengths.  When building a display, request creative input from artistic employees.  Typically professional contributions in both areas will create a more successful merchandising program.
  3. Hire a Tutor: Industry experts in design, signage, restaurant operations, and food merchandising can not only bring a well-rounded depth of knowledge and experience to your operation, they can provide valuable new perspectives.


And yes, there's even something to learn from the high school cafeteria.  High school food service professionals have mastered the science of serving 500-1000teens in two to three hours.  They methodically have full trays of food on the serving line in the right place at the right time and never miss an opportunity to sell lunch!

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Tags: concessions, display, food, merchandising, presentation, restaurant

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