The Student Rush


Pizza- The Student Rush

The Student Rush


The start of the school year is always busy for students — and with COVID still kicking around, it’s bound to be a little stressful, too. Those not using school lunches or dining plans will often turn to restaurants for a pick-me-up they can fit into their packed schedules. Operators can meet this demand, and earn new regulars while they’re at it. Win over students that are low on time and high on stress, by deploying quick comfort foods.

The Quick Fix

You don’t need to overhaul your restaurant concept to make it a quick food hub. Instead, develop and promote a handful of menu items with quick potential. You want these foods to be genuinely fast, getting people out the door in half an hour or less for sit-down places, and within minutes for take-out. This isn’t the time for baked mac and cheese — pasta salad’s more the right speed for a quick classic. You also want reliable foods, not ones that occasionally have to get thrown out and started from scratch. Think egg sandwich, not poached eggs, or sunny-side-up-and-over. If your option gets someone fed and to class on time nine tries out of ten, that’s a risky situation. The one unexpected failure will leave a sharp impression, and may keep customers from coming back. Once you’ve chosen a few fast, reliable items, highlight them in your menu and marketing. Make sure someone looking for a quick bite can tell right away they can count on you.


Make your quick foods travel well, too, to lure in those who are really on a time crunch. Handhelds work wonders for this strategy. A student can start a panini, burrito, or sub on your restaurant patio, and then seamlessly pick up their meal and start snacking on the go, when class time creeps in. Just make sure not to overload your offering, since it needs to actually stay in the hand for this to work. Packaging can help keep handhelds (even slightly overloaded ones) in check. If sandwich paper and foil aren’t part of your prep process, consider adding them for the boost in portability. Good packaging can also create unexpected to-go champions. A grain bowl with a sturdy lid can be put into a bag and relied on throughout the day — even more so than a sandwich, which might go stale or get squished. This is another factor to consider when picking your quick options: the promise of great leftover food. Look for dishes that are durable and good cold. That grain bowl will do better than a pre-dressed, greens-heavy salad, and in the sandwich department, chicken salad or cold cuts might beat grilled cheese or a meatball sub.

Food for Feelings

To get through schooltime stress, students need more than extra time: they also need comfort. When it comes to food, this means substance — energy-packed meals that can fuel intense study sessions, and bolster people emotionally when school and life get hard. For some, this will mean carbs, in the form of foods like sandwich bread, pasta, or rice. Others will lean on protein, with meat, cheese, beans, and nuts taking the lead. A little bit of fat can go a long way, too, with ingredients like bacon, olive oil, or fried breading. Not everyone will be excited about all of these components — but it’s important to have at least one of them featured in your quick option, to give it the filling quality required for comfort food. Simplicity is also key. A meal constructed from a main course, a salad, and several sides may have less appeal than one compact dish, for kids that just want to sit down and eat.

Creative Comfort

When developing comfort foods, it pays to expand your idea of comfort. People come from a variety of food traditions, and grow fond of their friends’ traditions, too, while at the melting pot of school. If your operation can include nods to different cuisines while staying in concept, you might get more visits from students. A sandwich shop, for example, could deploy a falafel, curry chicken, or cajun fish LTO with just a few spice and supply purchases, regardless of its home food style. “Fancy” foods can count as comfort, too. Sweet potato fries, avocado, and alternative milks and meats all deliver the rich flavor and substance you want from a comfort food, while also feeling like a treat. Try adding these as upgrades, to boost profits while satisfying customers looking for something special.

Deploying quick comfort foods doesn’t require a total menu refresh, but you might still find yourself reaching for ingredients that aren’t there. When that happens, Florida Food Service has your back. Get ready for the student rush — contact your sales rep today. 

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