Tuesday, July 19, 2016

MAKING THE MOST of  Back to School

By Linda Duke, CEO Duke Marketing and author, Recipes for Restaurateurs

For restaurateurs the emergence of fall colors and cooler weather is not just a reminder of the changing seasons, it presents the opportunity to partner with local schools.  Every community has schools ranging from preschool to college boasting a wide range of diversity. Back to school marketing programs provide ways for restaurateurs to reach these groups while giving back to education. 

Education is feeling the economic crunch.  School budgets have left many schools with no other options but to cut staff and special programs that enhance the curriculum.  To be a leader in the community it is important that restaurateurs reach out and show their support for education and youth by helping schools in this time of need.

The first week of school, students receive long lists of supplies required for each class. Restaurateurs can demonstrate their commitment to education by creating logo branded supplies, such as bookmarks, rulers, erasers and book covers which are easily customized with the restaurant’s logo, and donating them to the local schools.

Of course, one of the easiest ways restaurants contribute to schools is with food.  Restaurateurs can demonstrate their support for local schools by creating fundraisers donating a percentage of proceeds on a chosen day or time.  Schools pick their fundraiser day and restaurateurs provide fliers to hand-out.  Parents, teachers and students bring in the fliers on the chosen day and a percentage of proceeds are donated to the participating school. 

In addition to fundraisers for the school, restaurateurs can host events and raise money for music, art, athletics, field trips, computers, teacher’s aids or after school programs.  Choose a school to sponsor on a day, a week, a month or however long, donating a percentage of the proceeds to the school.  Fundraising helps schools with their budget and raises awareness in the community that restaurateurs are not only concerned about education, but are doing something about it.

Restaurateurs may also choose to show their appreciation for education through student achievement awards.  Achievement awards make students feel good, raise self esteem and makes learning more fun.  Have awards printed providing space for the name of the student and their achievement such as reading, writing, attendance or citizenship.  Pass these certificates out to area schools for teachers to reward students and be sure the certificate is good for a free meal or another offer.  Students typically bring these achievement awards in with another family member, increasing the restaurant’s sales and exposure in the community.  

Text Box:  Each year Mary’s Pizza Shack, a 18 unit Sonoma, California based pizza chain, donates achievement awards called Bambino Pizza certificates to every local elementary and middle school within a 3-mile radius of all Mary’s Pizza Shack locations (for students 13 years old or under). Students redeem these Bambino certificates for a free one topping personal pizza.  Mary’s Pizza Shack hand-delivers 300-600 certificates to over 100 elementary schools in September every year, and will give out 42,000 certificates this year to reward students in all 15 Mary’s Pizza Shack locations. The company believes that it is important to reinforce a child’s achievement and Bambino certificates do just that.

Text Box: Get Your School Lunch Program Rolling!
• Research elementary and middle schools in your 3-5 mile radius.
• Contact the school to inquire about their student lunch program.
• Offer to provide a free catered lunch for the teachers. Use this as a face-to-face meeting to show off menu items and discuss the student lunch program further.
• Determine the pricing with the school. 
• Remember –you might not get the exact price on your menu item, but the repeat business and the brand building is worth it!  
Another program that Mary’s Pizza Shack supports is “Project Grad”, which provides a safe environment for graduating seniors. Mary’s Pizza Shack donates 10 pizzas per high school for all schools within a 3-mile radius of each location on graduation prom night.  It is a great way to help and support local schools. 

Many schools offer student lunch programs, some paid for by state or federal funds for free lunch or reduced price lunches. However, schools may choose one day per month to have an outside restaurant supply students with a lunch item.  Local school food authorities set their own prices for full-price (paid) meals, but must operate their meal services as non-profit programs.  So, if a restaurateur offers to provide a school with a pizza day or a burrito day and charges less than typical menu prices (i.e. $2 per pizza or $3 per burrito), the difference may be considered a “donation”—ask your accountant if it is deductible.  In other words, providing schools with lunches is not only a great way to get kids to love your brand, but is also a terrific way to give back to your community. 

Mary’s Pizza Shack provides a school lunch program offering a 20% discount to schools on hot lunch items like pizza or pasta that are sold to hungry children on campus.   


Although securing school lunches may take extra care and planning, restaurateurs will find this program rewarding as it develops into a strong partnership that continues for many years. 



  • Target Teachers:  Restaurateurs can demonstrate their appreciation for educators by offering a catered lunch.  Contact the area schools to determine when teachers have faculty meetings, and arrange to provide a catered lunch.  Include catering menus and bounce back coupons as a thank you for their work acknowledging their contribution and importance.  Teachers will feel appreciated as they get to indulge in delicious food.
  • School Activities:  Parties and events are an important part of school activities. Schools have parties for good behavior, holidays, and end of the year, graduation, and homecoming or to celebrate a special day.  Restaurateurs can provide food to area schools to make it easy, efficient and affordable on these special days.  Contact schools and teachers to let them know about special pricing and determine when events or parties will be coming up in the school year.
  • Get Recognition:  Donating to schools is important and restaurateurs should be recognized for their actions. It is important to keep a tally of what and how much has been donated and share those efforts with the media throughout the year.  With all the budget and staff cuts, stories about supporting education are very popular in the media, especially when a restaurant is giving back to schools.  Share how many schools have been helped, what school programs have been saved or augmented, how the achievement awards that have been used and helped to motivate students, how many pizzas were given away or how much money raised.   Restaurants will show that they are a committed and conscientious partner in their community.
    For restaurateurs, back to school presents a great opportunity to introduce new programs to schools.  Contact schools now to begin developing relationships and providing programs to make a difference in your community.  
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    More recipes like this? “Recipes for Restaurateurs™” www.marketing-cookbook.com. 

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