Running a school canteen is a major undertaking. It’s a small business, a food business, and subject to many regulations and requirements across a range of different areas. The changing cast of P&C volunteers may or may not have the skills and knowledge needed to feel comfortable with the responsibility, or know how to run the enterprise effectively.
We’ve been presenting these difficulties and advocating for P&Cs which do run canteens to the ACT Government for over a decade. Over the past few years, we’ve worked alongside ACT Health, the ACT Education Directorate, Nutrition Australia and Healthy Kids Association as part of a Collaborative Working Group on Healthy Food at School. Now, a major outcome of the Working Group — the Canteen Business Essentials Manual, funded and project managed by ACT Health — is available to help P&Cs. We are very grateful to all who have helped bring this fabulous manual into being!
ACT Health are providing printed copies to all P&C-run canteens
So, what does the manual cover?
The Canteen Business Essentials Manual is designed to help you navigate key aspects of operating or establishing a P&C-run canteen. It covers topics such as regulations and legislation you need to comply with, and licenses you need to hold. It also includes tips for running a profitable canteen including finances, staffing, purchasing and putting together a healthy choices menu that works for your customers, your staff, and your bottom line!
There is a lot of detail in the guide, from hiring, awards and time sheets (there are sample documents), to orientation of new volunteers (there is a example checklist). From work health and safety risk management (with a risk management plan template to get you started) to building your menu, the manual has clear information and great practical tips. There are also useful links if you need more details.
At every turn you can click through to further sample documents and templates of spreadsheets forms, records and surveys. These cover a huge range of aspects, from frame-work documents like the Terms of Reference for your canteen subcommittee, to the daily nitty-gritty like food temperature logs or daily takings sheets.
The manual is very readable and well laid out in eight colourful sections. It is surprisingly easy to use given the amount of information it covers. Key topics covered in each section are outlined on the first page along with links to supporting tools and templates. Those who like box-ticking will love the checklist at the end of each chapter!
The detailed sections are:
- Establishing a canteen (the licenses, registrations, policies and management structure you should have place)
- Staffing your canteen (recruiting, awards, payroll, leave and managing volunteers)
- Workplace Health and Safety (insurance, laws, risk management and keeping safe)
- Managing the Finances (canteens as businesses, understanding cash flow, statements and records, depreciation)
- Food safety (common things that go wrong, food safety supervisors, labelling, allergies)
- Designing and pricing the menu (an efficient menu, healthy choices, documenting recipes, improving profits, understanding operating costs, cost per serve and mark-up)
- Procedures and policies (from kids in the canteen, to suppliers, stocktake and wastage)
- Promoting your Canteen.
While the manual aims to provide the latest accurate information following the links to relevant websites will ensure that you are accessing the most current information.
While every single business question might not be answered in this manual, it should help P&Cs to build a solid foundation for their canteen and point you towards further resources and information as you need them.
Other supports available
ACT Health’s Fresh Tastes program provides other free resources to help canteens.
Go for Green
If you want to learn a bit more about using the Traffic Light System, check out the new Go for Green online course. This free, 30 minute course will refresh your knowledge about classifying foods and drinks in a fun, interactive way. The course will show you how to classify your freshly made or pre-packaged items, featuring instructional videos from Nutrition Australia staff.
You’ll practice your skills by GREENing up common recipes with plenty of fun, practical activities.
Marketing Food at School
This guide shows you how to promote your healthier school canteen items to students and staff using the ‘5Ps’. The information and tips in the guide will hel you create more demand for healthy foods and drinks. ●
This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 3, 2020.