The Houston County Schools nutrition department serves almost 30,000 K-12 students at 37 school sites, 16 of which operate under Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). School lunch and school breakfast participation is significantly higher at CEP schools than in non-CEP schools. After establishing universal breakfast after the bell, Houston County also launched a non-universal (paid) breakfast after the bell pilot program to great success. The key? Constant communication plus custom branding and marketing throughout the life of the program. Houston County developed two distinct brands for their BIC programs:
- SIPS smoothie cart: Exclusively for high school students
- REVVED brand which promotes their non-universal (paid) breakfast program.
SIPS Smoothie Carts
It’s a common problem among school nutrition professionals: How do you target hard-to-reach high school students for school breakfast? In an effort to capture these elusive customers, Houston County Schools nutrition services developed a separate menu and brand. The “SIPS” smoothie cart is offered exclusively to high school students and only on Friday.
“Kids look forward to it,” explained district dietitian Lauren Koff. “They know it’s special and so they don’t get tired of it. The online reaction to the brand let us know we were on to something. Parents got really excited over the unique branding and logo.”
Cafeteria staff uses immersion blenders and make smoothies to order, served from specially banded SIPS carts. The limited menu of smoothies, whole fruit, a grain, and milk, keeps things “fresh, fast, and fun”—the tagline for the brand.
REVVED for School Breakfast
Working with an outside consultant, Houston County Schools developed the REVVED brand and logo. Student surveys and focus groups helped determine preferences:
- Preferred social media apps (e.g. students prefer Snapchat over Facebook)
- Food preferences specific to breakfast
- Brand loyalty and recognition
The focus groups prompted several adjustments, such as employing the use of a text messaging system to reach students with opt-in updates on school breakfast and lunch promotions, new menu items, and more.
Houston County used an outside designer to create the REVVED brand and logo, that communicates that school breakfast is “cool, fast, exciting.” The REVVED logo appears on staff uniforms that are worn only during breakfast service; employees change into different uniforms after breakfast service and before lunch, to keep the REVVED brand exclusive and exciting for students.
Exclusivity Attracts Attention
To improve the breakfast after the bell experience, Houston County school nutrition staff created exclusive language and offered “limited time” specials on menu items to increase student interest.
“We capitalized on things happening in mainstream culture and popular food trends in restaurants,” said Koff. “For example, we did a breakfast-for-lunch promotion during National School Breakfast Week. We worked with manufacturers to produce large-scale signage to promote [school meals.] Anything the students feel is ‘special’ or ‘different’.”
Generating excitement around a menu item is as simple as putting an expiration date on its availability. Offering menu items for a “limited time only” creates a sense of urgency that keeps kids interested.
Are you offering limited-time menu items or using custom branding in your breakfast after the bell program? Share your story & logo with us on social media; follow the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom on Facebook and Twitter.