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Marketing Strategy

There are many things to consider when marketing your school's breakfast program. This section provides insight into key considerations in marketing your breakfast program, from defining your objective and target audience to merchandising tips for food service directors.

Step 1: Define your Objective

You will be most successful in achieving your goal if you tailor your activities to your specific needs. In the Assessing School Breakfast Potential chapter of this toolkit, you were given tools to define those needs. Are parents unaware of the program? Are children not enticed? Do community members and key stakeholders know about the benefits of breakfast and importance of children starting their day with a healthy meal? Determine the answers to these questions which will then help shape your marketing campaign.

If you find that…
…try to…
People don't know about the breakfast programincrease awareness
  • Sending home informational flyers
  • Hosting a parents breakfast
  • Serving breakfast at lunch
  • Posting menus online
People don't look favorably on the current breakfast programImprove perception of the breakfast program or change the foods you offer
  • Getting input on what your customers want and applying it
  • Coming up with a new gimmick for your program
  • Having a contest where students get to plan the ultimate breakfast menu
People don't think the current program is healthyImprove nutritional quality of meals
  • Analyzing current recipes and menus to ensure they are meet the nutrition standards
  • Adding more fruits and vegetables to your meals- Advertising more prominently the most “healthy” menu choices each day
You want to increase salesIncrease student and teacher participation
  • Promoting menu choices
  • Holding a taste test event to give potential participants a sample of foods offered
  • Offering alternative breakfast delivery methods (Grab ‘N’ Go, classroom breakfast, etc.)

One of the most important ways to increase participation in breakfast is to consider using an alternative service methods such as breakfast in the classroom, grab n' go, and breakfast after first period. These methods are discussed in the program expansion section of this toolkit. This section will help you sell your program, no matter how you have it set up, once it is established.

Step 2: Target Your Audience

Different audiences may be concerned with different aspects of school breakfast:

When targeting your audience, you may wish to consider:

What's Important to Students:
  • Food That Tastes Good. Find out what types of foods your students like to eat
  • Having Fun. Make sure activities that promote school breakfast are age appropriate and varied.
  • Being Healthy. Your students (especially teenagers) are interested in the benefits of a healthy diet
Marketing Methods:
  • Teacher encouragement
  • School posters
  • Assemblies
  • Peer nutrition educators
  • Contests
  • Advertisements on school computer screensavers
  • Surveys about food preferences
  • Articles in school newsletters
Parents and Guardians
What's Important to Parents and Guardians:
  • Convenience. Mornings can be hectic. School breakfast takes one thing of the morning “to do” list.
  • Value. Breakfast at school is inexpensive. Many families that already participate in the National School Lunch Program are eligible for free or reduced price breakfast.
  • Nutrition. Parents can be sure their child is eating a healthy breakfast. School breakfast is guaranteed to meet ¼ of the recommended daily intake of nutrients.
  • Link to Positive Academic Performance. Research shows that students who eat a healthy breakfast are more attentive, have better memory recall, and perform better on standardized tests than those who do not eat a healthy breakfast.
Marketing Methods:
  • Flyers
  • Articles in the school newsletter
  • Automated messages on school phone lines (attendance line, “on hold” messages)
  • Presentations at PTA meetings
  • Parent teacher conferences
  • PSAs
What's Important to Teachers:
  • Strong Academics. Students who eat a healthy breakfast perform better academically than students who do not eat a healthy breakfast.
  • Healthy Students. School breakfasts provide ¼ the recommended daily intake of nutrients for students.
  • Instruction time. School breakfast does not have to interrupt the school day. Breakfast in the classroom can be an opportunity for nutrition education or a short scheduled “nutrition break”.
  • Student Behavior. Eating breakfast is linked to better student behavior and fewer absences.
Marketing Methods:
  • Principal leadership
  • Research on the academic and behavioral benefits of breakfast
  • A “trial run” of breakfast in the classroom
  • Information about breakfast in the classroom (handout in this toolkit)
  • Invite teacher participation on school breakfast decisions
What's Important to Administrators:
  • School Performance. School breakfast can help improve academic performance for those students who otherwise would not eat a healthy morning meal.
  • Behavior. Students behave better in class when they have eaten breakfast.
  • Healthy Students. School breakfast gives students ¼ their daily recommended intake of nutrients.
  • Cost effective strategies. Administrators need to know that School Breakfast Programs can be cost effective.
Marketing Methods:
  • PowerPoint presentation (sample included in this toolkit)
  • Letters (samples included in this toolkit)
  • Other administrators' letters of support
  • Invitations to school breakfast events
  • Research detailing the academic benefits of a healthy breakfast
  • A well thought-out breakfast expansion plan
  • Cost calculations (use calculators included in the toolkit)
What's Important to the Community:
  • Strong Academics.
  • Healthy Students. Healthy children help to make a healthy community. Eating a healthy breakfast is an important part of a healthy diet.
  • Help During Difficult Economic Times. Families whose children are eligible for free or reduced price lunches are also eligible for free or reduced price breakfast. The School Breakfast Program can help families that are trying to make ends meet.
Marketing Methods:
  • through PSAs and by
  • Inviting local politicians to share a school breakfast meal with students
  • Inviting local celebrities to participate in a school breakfast.
Other things to consider when targeting your audience:
  • Specific Ages and Grade Levels
    • Marketing to a nine-year-old and a teenager is very different. Analyze what your school's students are interested in and try to use it to your advantage. Is there a T.V. Character that they like? Do teenagers have growing concern about nutrition and are they aware of all the benefits offered by breakfast?
  • Cultural Identity
    • If you are targeting a diverse group of students, you might consider foods from a variety of cultures for breakfast. In the United States, we typically associate waffles, pancakes, cereal and certain kind of fruits with breakfast. Research breakfast recipes from the many cultures that make up your student body. Better yet, ask students to share favorite breakfast menu ideas from their families' recipe books and incorporate them into the breakfast rotation.
  • Language
    • Many students may come from homes where English is not the primary language. Promoting your programs in a variety of languages will help you to reach the widest audience.

Step 3: Create Your Image

There are several factors to consider when developing a breakfast image. Not only do you have to define your own product and service, you have to look at it in the context of your competition and find ways to emphasize the advantages of School Breakfast.

What are you offering?
  • Nutritious food for students.
  • A convenient alternative for parents in the morning.
  • A low-cost meal that has a positive impact on children's learning experience.
What is your competition?
  • Fast food restaurants, vending machines, student store, convenience stores, a la carte items
Compare your Prices and Promotion Methods
  • How does your competition (sources of breakfast other than student homes) market?
  • What are their promotion methods that are effective, and what are yours?
  • How do your prices compare?
  • How do you differ from them?
  • How do you distribute your meals?
  • What methods have you used before?
  • What has been effective?
  • What other possible methods?
  • How much money do you have? What can you do with that?
  • How are you testing your marketing tools?
  • How are you measuring results?
  • What can you start doing NOW?

Then, sell your product with:

Signs - Create signage that fits the type of service you are providing. Keep the message and design simple to ensure readability. Use the computer to design simple signs for meal descriptions or for the cafeteria.

Menus - Menus offer vital information regarding types of meals served and enhance the image of the school meals program. Students are not the only people who see the menus; parents, teachers, principals and the community also see them. Describe how your school meals meet the nutrition standards and Dietary Guidelines recommendations. Include nutrition education messages. Collaborate with teachers to promote themes that link with classroom lessons, such as Breads from Around the World, Harvest of the Month, etc.

Make Menu Choices More Appealing - Imagine yourself in a restaurant. You scan the menu for your appetizer and entrée for the meal. As you look at the words, your decision is solely based upon the words on the piece of paper. So use words that are enticing, because if it sounds good to you, it will probably sound good to the next person. Try using some of these words when describing your meals. Remember to deliver what you promise.

Environment - The environment where students eat is important. Sometimes cafeterias are used for food service, gym class, sports practice, assemblies and meetings. Create an area that is neutral for those activities and design ways that it could be more relaxing and entertaining to eat there. Play background music or decorate the walls so that it looks more appealing and fun. Solicit ideas of how you can create an environment where students will enjoy eating. Improve customer service by maintaining a positive attitude when serving food. Train food service staff on customer service and problem solving.

Page updated: November 16, 2023