Food Services in School Cafeterias - 3 KPIs to Track


In 2004, the Council of Great City Schools (CGCS) began its mission to provide school district operations leaders with a framework for measuring and improving their district's performance. One department that sees a particular uplift from regular performance measurement and adjustment is food services. Child Nutrition Services are a fundamental component of the services that school districts provide to their students, and they can have a measurable impact on student achievement. However, it is challenging to balance meeting nutrition standards for school meals, encourage students to participate in meal programs, and prove that programs are affordable and profitable.

Additionally, with over 500 KPIs to benchmark your district's operational performance against, what are key performance indicators that operations leaders can use to start analyzing their food services program? There are 3 essential KPIs that matter when a school district needs to identify strengths and weaknesses in their school nutrition program.

3 Performance Metrics for Food Services in School Cafeterias

  1. Food Cost per Meal
  2. Labor Cost as a Percent of Revenue
  3. Free and Reduced Price Student Participation in Breakfast

“With key indicator information available in a timely fashion, the department can quickly implement programmatic adjustments such as menu changes, staffing adjustments and modify equipment purchasing decisions” - Jean Ronnei, Senior Consultant, Pro-Team Foodservice Advisors and former Chief Operating Officer at Saint Paul Public Schools

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In our webinar "KPIs In Food Services", we took a look at how California districts use their key performance indicator data to compare their individual performance to peer districts. Comparing your performance to peer districts is an essential part of the CGCS framework for analysis and improvement because it allows you to see what you are doing well, and learn from other districts who have improved in areas that you might have gaps. When we looked at high performing districts in California, 3 trends became apparent: 

Best Practices for Food Services in School Cafeterias

  1. Schedule alignment. Since food service program are typically managed centrally, workers maybe unaware of site schedules which can lead to waste.
  2. Limit labor costs. Remove employees who are often absent or repeat worker’s compensation claim offenders.
  3. Produce food that smells good and looks appetizing. Children are more likely to eat meals that look fun and delicious

Download the CGCS Benchmarking Report  for Nutrition Services


Phillip Smith

About The Author

Phillip leverages his extensive software and education industry experience to share innovative solutions for many of our valued TransAct customers and partners. As leader of AfterSchool21 and OutOfSchoolTime-Tracker sales, he helps support after-school program administrators in parent pay management and accurate 21APR reporting. Phillip also leads the ActPoint KPI team and the Council of Great City Schools (CGCS) partnership. ActPointKPI supports district and state business leaders nationwide in their efforts to manage costs and drive resources back to where they belong–the classroom.