Odd school schedules provide an opportunity for additional revenue streams
Across the country, schools are re-opening, kind of. Many have modified or reduced schedules while others are a hybrid of virtual or completely online. For many parents this presents a dilemma. Not everyone can work from home, and even those who do may not have the time to drop their work and make lunch for the kids.
The lack of school lunches across the nation for kids is a unique opportunity for restaurants looking to keep their staff busy. How to fill that need in an affordable and timely manner presents a bit more of a challenge.
Daily lunch delivery might not be practical from a cost standpoint, although, with a large enough number of subscribers in a manageable zone, an Indian-style tiffin lunch concept might be workable. More likely, a 3-or 5-lunch package weekly, either delivered on Monday or picked up, could be best from both an affordability and a logistics standpoint.
Hand PiesKids love portable, crusty foods, and hand pies hit those desires on the head. Think flaky pastry filled with savory meats and cheeses — perhaps something exotic yet approachable along the line of an empanada or simple like a sausage roll. As the weather gets colder, chicken pot pies or steak and onion pies, with rich gravy are a great way to warm the kiddos up. Just think microwavable-style pockets, easy and convenient but elevated and delicious.
Rice/Pasta BowlsKids can’t live on mac ‘n’ cheese alone. OK, maybe some can but parents will want something healthier so you probably shouldn’t build a whole week of lunches around one dish. Easy-to-reheat bowls of pasta with sauce and protein are super popular with kids and will appeal to parents as well. Rice bowls can be immensely versatile, ranging from Asian fried rices to Indian curries or just clean Mediterranean flavors.
FlatbreadsThese are basically personal pizzas — something the kids can build themselves and pop in the toaster oven. A piece of flatbread, some sauce, a little protein and perhaps a
ThrowbacksSome parents might scoff at the old lunch meat and crackers meal for their kids but, honestly, what’s a charcuterie board but lunch meat with wine? The kids probably wouldn’t be thrilled with an artisanal bleu paired with fig jam and a slice of country-style terrine, but a sleeve of crackers with some house-made pimento cheese and a little country ham could draw their attention. Really any mild, recognizable cheese served up with cured meat, hams, or salamis, plus some sort of cracker is sure to be a hit.
Vegetarian/VeganGetting kids to eat their vegetables is an age-old problem, but these days, there is not an insignificant number of kids who simply don’t eat meat. Finding dishes for these kids can be a real challenge. But, for some of these options, simply omitting the animal protein is easy. Just make sure you add something back in to help balance the flavors and texture of the dish out. Perhaps some tofu or seitan to keep those protein levels up and to add to the mouthfeel of the dish.
Drinks/DessertFull-size dessert portions would quickly drive the price out of range for most families but including a small dessert for one or two days of the week, say a cookie or small cupcake, could be all that’s needed to help round the meal out. For drinks, many restaurants have invested in everything they need to make cocktails in portable drink pouches. Here’s another chance to put that investment to work — this time for chocolate milk.
Survival KitsThe Internet is filled with food comparisons to the sad dishes served up at the Fyre Festival, and looking at photos of quarantined college students’ erratic room service, they’re not totally unfounded. With that in mind, for college kids as well as older high school students, boxes of shelf-stable food that require little to no kitchen facilities could be just what they need. Chips and crackers, peanut butter or chocolate spread, plus breads and cured meats would all be welcome treats.
The new school year is full of uncertainty and parents are looking for solutions to get their kids what they need. Creating a supply of ready-to-eat, easy-to-heat meals is one less thing they need to worry about and allows them to focus on getting through these uncertain times.