When school bells shine, opportunities climb

Aug. 3, 2011 | by Marla Topliff
When school bells shine, opportunities climb

Families with children are so significant to foodservice that it is important to understand who makes the decision on what and where to eat. Most food service marketing mavens agreed that kids have the strongest influence on the family dining dollars.

Research by Crest/NPD Foodworld found that 70 percent of family meal decisions are heavily influenced by kids under 18. The New American Diner Study by Restaurants & Institutions found that children 5 or younger are most likely to frequently influence restaurant visits, while children 6 to 18 are more likely to have occasional influence. The study found that children 18 or younger influence their households' restaurant choices:

  • Frequently, 23 percent
  • Occasionally, 50 percent
  • Rarely, 18 percent
  • Never, less than 9 percent

In other words, capturing a large share of the school marketplace is like winning the grand prize of marketing. Since schools are always seeking new avenues for fundraising and parents are increasingly more involved with their children's school activities, helping schools helps us grab the community's attention. Quite simply, the more we help our community, the more it helps our bottom-line. Building a relationship with your community is easy. It all starts with demographics.

So what exactly are demographics, and how do you find them?A simple definition is: Demographics are all statistical data of a particular population, such as average age, income, education, religious affiliation, number of children, etc. Once you have that information, you should be able to form a pretty clear picture of the neighborhood that you are serving and what its needs are. Finding neighborhood demographics isn't hard, but since the census only collects U.S. demographic information every 10 years, you need to use more than one source when researching. To give you an ideas of other sources, here is a sampling of a few websites where you can find a wealth of information about your market area for FREE:

For local schools, try Google. Just type in the name of your city and state, and it should come right up. You will find several choices, but what you are looking for is the choice that lists all of the schools in your district. Look for the site map, and once you are on it, you will find a pull down menu that lists the schools in your area. Also, you may find a pull down menu for the superintendent's office, which will give you a source for sending information directly to the top decision maker in your school district.

On the home page for each school, you will find information regarding the principal, the school secretaries, and PTA contacts. Some websites list e-mail address for the teachers; some will list each member of the PTA /PTO and their office. Once the contact is found, write an introductory letter or email outlining your school program to the principal, superintendent, teacher, or parent teacher representative. The amount of information you can find is amazing, and it gives you the resources you need to get your school programs into the right hands.

Your school program should be well-rounded and crafted to include things like a read a book program for the classroom, a low-price package for a weekly or monthly pizza day, free conference night dinners for teachers, packages for classroom parties, fundraising nights for the sports teams, or maybe a W.O.W. (Wonderful Outstanding Work) reward programs for teachers to use as incentive for a job well done.

Your letters or emails should be personalized for each group and include your store's information. You will also need to follow up your correspondence with a phone call. Make sure to note who you are working with at the school. Start a file on each program to include the contacts and the details of the program. Create a timeline and follow it carefully. Follow-up is key.

Bottom line: If your neighborhood is your market, get to know your neighbors and make them your fans.

Topics: Marketing, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Operations Management

Marla Topliff
Marla Topliff, president of Rosati’s Pizza, has helped grow the Chicago franchise from 60 stores in 1999 to the 170 national brand that it is today. She supervises all aspects of marketing, customer service, store communications and vendor relationships. wwwView Marla Topliff's profile on LinkedIn

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