Dining Area Canopies

Widest range of outdoor dining and covered seating solutions

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Headteacher of Our Lady's RC High School

I had no hesitation going back to A&S for another canopy because I knew I was going to get value for money.

Business Manager,
Our Lady’s RC High School
Deputy Principal of Blackpool Aspire Academy

The way in which A&S work is really superb. I am very pleased with the quality of the design and the construction.

Deputy Principal,
Blackpool Aspire Academy
Assistant Headteacher of Claremont High School

A&S Landscape gave us the care and attention that we required. The team’s communication was excellent.

Assistant Headteacher,
Claremont High School

Dining Area Canopies

Dining outdoors is one of life’s great pleasures and more and more schools and organisations are recognising the enormous positive impact that eating ‘alfresco’ can have on their pupils. When considering outdoor dining in the UK we must also consider shelter from the weather. Dining area canopies and dining room extensions will create covered seating areas allowing students to take a sandwich outside and socialise with friends. This promotes a welcome feeling of relaxation and well-being which in turn has a positive effect on productivity and the ability to learn.

Benefits of a Dining Canopy

Many schools benefit from the positive impacts of installing a dining canopy. These include relieving pressure from the existing, internal dining and cafeteria space and allowing students to eat their lunch ‘alfresco’ which has many mental health benefits. Dining area shelters are also a cost-effective alternative to extending the school building, as often planning permission isn’t required.

Dining Area Canopies Prices

A&S Landscape offers a number of products that can provide ideal shelter for dining and seating areas with options to suit all requirements and budgets. We always keep in mind the aesthetics of the building and the space available for a dining area canopy and can work with clients to make maximum use of the space and budget available. There are many reasons to consider a dining area canopy, many of the schools across the UK we have worked with have required a large outdoor dining area to accommodate pupils at lunchtimes, a cheaper alternative to extending the dining room.

As with all our products, the best way to get a covered outdoor dining area canopy cost is to talk to us or you can visit our prices page for details of how to contact us for pricing. As a basic rule, a straight roof canopy will cost less than a curved roof dining area canopy and a one-way sloping roof (as opposed to pitched or barrel vault design) will save on guttering (if required).

Dining Area Canopy Designs

No two dining area canopies are ever the same and thanks to our design flexibility we can offer workable and affordable canopy solutions incorporating a variety of different features to allow for almost any requirement but based on one of our standard dining area canopy products. A member of our design team can discuss and suggest the best dining area canopy solution to meet your requirements, outlining our recommendations along with a comprehensive estimate.

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Dining Area Canopy Ideas

Look through some of our dining area canopy projects we have completed

Semi-enclosed Dining Shelter Made for The Chantry School in Worcester

Bespoke shelter we designed for The Chantry SchoolThe Chantry School had decided that it was time to create a new outdoor dining space for its students to enjoy. The area in question was exposed to the elements and so a shelter was needed to make it useable throughout the year. A&S Landscape installed a Motiva Mono™ curved roof shelter, complete with side panels along a section of the structure. Because we are all about the attention to detail, we even added the school’s logo to the panels. We are thrilled with the finished product, it has created a welcoming area for the students to enjoy their lunch outside all year round. Thanks to the side panels, the students will be protected from even the harshest of winds. It has truly transformed the area. Click here to visit our project page and learn more about the dining shelter we designed for The Chantry School.

Purple Framed Dining Canopy at Thistley Hough Academy in Staffordshire

Freestanding shelter we designed for Thistley Hough AcademyLocated in Stoke-on-Trent, Thistley Hough Academy had just added a food pod to their site and were looking for a covered seating solution to complete the area. A&S Landscape was chosen to supply and install a Motiva Duo™ dining area canopy at the school, to an overall size of 10000mm x 5000mm. With Signal Violet coloured steelwork, the shelter not only matches the school’s logo but adds a pop of colour to the area. Now the students can get their food from the pod and find a seat outside, no matter the weather conditions – what a great solution to a busy dining hall! What’s more, is that they can spend more time in the fresh air, which can benefit their mental and physical health. It’s a win-win scenario! You can see more about the purple dining area shelter we designed for Thistley Hough Academy here.

Fabric Outdoor Dining Area Canopy Installed The Perse School in Cambridge

Shade sail we fitted at The Perse SchoolWellbeing is at the heart of the values of The Perse School in Cambridge. A lot of thought went into how they could complement their existing external areas by providing an outside dining area canopy that would blend with the lovely surroundings. The school’s chosen option was for two Maxima StarSail canopies. The real beauty of the canopied outside dining area that the school created was not just the aesthetic effect of the elegant sail-shaped awnings, but the shade that was achieved from the sun in summer. Not only that, but with the use of waterproof fabric, the area is also the perfect shelter from the rain. The ability to configure this particular type of dining area canopy to suit the space available also meant that the school was able to create a bespoke look that fits perfectly into its grounds. This project is a great example of the versatility of outdoor dining canopies for schools. To read more about The Perse School’s outdoor dining area and its lovely fabric shade sail canopy, click here.

Meole Brace Secondary School in Shropshire Install a Blue Outside Dining Shelter

Shelter we installed at Meole Brace SchoolIt’s a mealtime double-whammy at Meole Brace Secondary School in Shropshire! Not only have they created a fabulous outside dining area, but they also decided to add a dining pod to alleviate pressure on the main dining hall and cafeteria. The school had wanted to create an outside seating area that would allow the students to use the space year-round. But the addition of this all-weather resource doesn’t just give students an outside dining shelter, it also offers an opportunity for teachers to use the space to deliver lessons outside. What set out as a canopied outside dining area has become an all-purpose space that has added value to the school on many levels. This shows the creative ways that additional dining area canopies can be used. Better still, it’s easy to show to governors the cost-benefit analysis of a school dining area canopy because the popularity amongst the students speaks for itself. Read more about Meole Brace Secondary School’s dining shelter.

The Avon Valley School in Warwickshire Add Straight Roof Dining Canopy

Shelter with sides we designed for Avon Valley SchoolOur design team thoroughly enjoyed creating a dining area shelter for The Avon Valley School. After carefully reviewing the proposed area, we decided upon using the Motiva Linear with the simple, yet effective addition of side panels. Complete with Gentian Blue steelwork, opal polycarbonate roofing, the area has been completely transformed. The students can order their food at the wooden hut next to the shelter and then choose a place to sit from the many benches under the roof. Even it is pouring with rain, the sheltered seating area can be used and the students can enjoy some fresh air during the day. The covered space could even be used during lessons, creating an outdoor classroom. Keep reading about the dining shelter at The Avon Valley School here.

Featured Dining Area Canopy Project

Our Lady’s RC High School in Manchester add Large Outdoor Dining Canopy

Canopy we installed at Our Lady's RC High School

What was the project brief?

Our Lady’s RC High School in Blackley, Manchester recognise the key part a comfortable environment plays for the well-being of their students. While a large amount of a child’s school day is usually spent within the confines of the classroom, the school wanted to ensure that their students had access to outdoor space in their breaks – all year round. It was important to Our Lady’s RC High School that the children were able to appreciate the fresh air, while also enjoying a good dining experience.

They realised that the best way to achieve this was to transform their unused outdoor space, into an outdoor covered dining area – complete with all the dining facilities such as tables, chairs and rubbish bins. As the school canopy expert, A&S Landscape was called in to help them with the entire process. This meant discussing the wide range of canopies on offer, how the canopy could be designed to better suit their needs, and once the school were happy – the manufacturer and design. 

What was our outdoor dining canopy solution?

Canopy we fitted at Our Lady's RC High SchoolThe school canopy that was selected as the best solution was the Motiva Duo™. Measuring at 12000mm x 8000mm, this was to be a large dining area canopy. The Motiva Duo™ has a genuine polycarbonate roof, and a Dura-coat™ finish, offering excellent quality weather protection at all times of the year. The addition of side panels formed an enclosed area and created the much-loved outside eating area for the students of Our Lady’s RC High School.

What was the result of outdoor dining canopy?

The new dining area canopy has gone down a treat with the children, who are happy they can now enjoy the large outdoor dining area and can enjoy a better student dining experience – eating outside and socialising with their friends. The staff and teachers are also much happier now that dining capacity has increased, and the area is essentially used as the over-flow canteen. Now with the additional dining space, there is less pressure on the canteen and other indoor eating areas, with shorter lunch lines. No longer are children using valuable time during their lunch break waiting for dining tables to become free, nor are they having to rush their food to ensure they are back to their classes on time. And the side panels also helps to keep the students safe from the wind, rain or snow. This means the children are using their lunch break for what they should be used for – to relax!

Testimonial / Client Feedback

“I’d heartily recommend A&S Landscape to any other school or any other potential customer and we have done so. I’d very gladly work with them again.”

-Ian Gosling, Headteacher at Our Lady’s RC High School

About the client

Our Lady’s RC High School is a catholic school located in the suburban area Blackley, within the city of Manchester. The school is made up of a lovely team of individuals who were friendly throughout the process and were extremely helpful when it came to discussing the options with them. They certainly made our job easier by being so efficient with communication. We are so pleased we could help them create their outdoor dining area and further improve the school life of the students.

Why invest in a dining area canopy?

Outdoor dining canopies are beneficial to you whether you are a school, university, commercial business, or a public attraction, or any other business or organisation that requires to accommodate eatingCanopy we fitted at Our Lady's RC High School. Also exquisitely named outdoor dining and social canopies, they can be a hugely valuable investment. Here are a few reasons why they are worth investing in:

  • The benefits of eating outside have long been documented, and so it’s no wonder we are all turning to outdoor dining rooms. Research has suggested that food can even taste and digest better. 
  • As long as there is space available, a large outdoor dining area is in your reach. It’s a cost-effective solution that provides weather protection, gives room for outdoor entertaining and eases congestion on indoor areas. Additional features to outdoor dining canopies include heaters, lighting and power.
  • Generally being outdoors is great for physical and mental health, it lowers rates of anxiety and depression, and increases concentration levels. Absorption of Vitamin D from the sunlight increases, which can help alleviate the chances of strokes, heart disease and other health problems.
  • Outdoor dining canopies can bring use to unloved spaces. Providing your customers or students with a place to eat is always a good option – seeing as it’s something we do every day!
  • Many of us are opting to take the ‘good dining experience’ to the next level. A dining area canopy is a great way to achieve this – just add your dining tables or picnic benches, and you’re good to go!

Why choose A&S Landscape?

We offer a whole range of canopies that can suit your needs. Whatever space you have available, and whether it’s a dining area canopy, or a timber playground canopy – at A&S Landscape, we have you covered!

We have been helping our architects, school business managers and business owners to find the canopy that is special and unique to them for over 44 years. In this time, we have developed a wealth of knowledge, but have continued to offer a friendly, reliable and trustworthy service as part of our family-run business. If you need some inspiration, feel free to look through our product gallery, and at our other completed canopy and shelter projects.

We’re always happy to help find your ideal solution to your outdoor cover, – so please get in touch with our friendly team on 01743 636176 or at [email protected].

Canopy we made for Our Lady's RC High School

Our Lady's RC High School Before and After



Our Accreditations

The Condensed Guide To Outdoor Dining Area Design in Schools

When you’re designing (or re-designing) your dining areas to meet the changing needs of your school, there’s a lot to take into account. From the statutory minimum dining area you need to provide, to the welfare and happiness of the children, the challenge of balancing your responsibilities with your budget is not going to be easy.

The Department for Education provides a technical document for project managers (Area Guidelines for Mainstream Schools, Building Bulletin 103, June 2014), which, for those of you with a technical mind, you can access here.

We’ve looked at the whole thing and extracted the relevant information on outdoor dining areas. So whether you’re doing the planning yourself or overseeing your main contractor while they complete the process, you’ll remain informed and assured that your plans are fit for purpose and will meet the needs of your school.

You’ll see that even outdoor dining spaces need to meet strict guidance on accessibility, space, capacity, H&S and other regulations.

Dining Area Space Allocation

The total area of spaces used for dining should allow an amount per cover, or dining place. The number of covers should be based on the predicted number of pupils who would eat lunch on site (including packed lunches) divided by the number of ‘sittings’ or equivalent (if continuous flow) in the lunch break. Crucially, the number of sittings will depend on the time available for lunch.

You can request our graph which shows the range of area needed, depending on the time available and therefore the number of sittings possible. It is important to note that the lower recommended area for dining is only sufficient if the lunchtime available is at least an hour. This may be achieved by a single lunch break for all pupils or by a ‘split lunch’ break.


“A good dining experience gives schools a happier and calmer population of children, supports an increased uptake of school meals, and makes a significant contribution to your Health and Wellbeing inspection”

Department of Education, Northern Ireland

Dining Area Design

When designing your dining room facilities whether indoors or outdoors, you need to ensure:

  1. There are sufficient tables and seating for dining ‘covers’ and space to access them
  2. You have allowed adequate space for the number of pupils, taking into account the length of meal breaks and number of servings (the statutory minimum requirement is covered in this document)
  3. There is sufficient queueing space up to and in front of any servery if relevant
  4. There are adequate clearance areas and waste disposal
  5. Where required, there are satellite or temporary servery areas
  6. Wheelchair/disabled access is available to all areas
  7. There are sufficient bins and recycling points where appropriate
  8. Where you are planning outdoor spaces, that the plans meet the relevant construction regulations (e.g. CDM 2015)
  9. That the environment you are creating is conducive to a good dining experience

In secondary schools, there can also be opportunities to create a much wider range of eating spaces within the dining area allocation, such as cafés and buffet areas that also become social spaces. The area may include further provision for cold meals or snacks, for instance from vending machines.

Social spaces specifically for sixth form pupils may be used for eating cold food, from vending machines or a satellite servery.

In addition to these specific requirements for dining areas, the Department for Education document also outlines the minimum space required for the area designated for ‘Halls, Dining and PE’, regardless of pupil numbers. You can request this here.

Output Specification Generic Design Brief

Away from the ‘Area Guidelines’ document, the Government’s ‘Output Specifications Generic Design Brief’ document also contains instructions for the design and build of dining areas. Our Condensed Guide Number 4 contains general advice for the use of this document, or you can request the whole thing here.

Specific to dining spaces, it states the following:

2.3.12 Dining and Kitchen Suite (including main halls in Primary Special and AP) The Contractor shall ensure that the areas of any dining space(s) provided are as identified in the School-Specific SoA and ADS and are designed to accommodate any catering arrangements of the School set out in the SSB. Specific requirements, including whether dining will be dispersed around the School, rather than in a single location or, may be given in the SSB. Where required, the dining area shall be designed to allow other functions to take place, with the internal environment designed to cater for any different activities specified in the SSB As well as responding to any specific requirements in the SSB, the Contractor shall ensure that any area provided for use as a dining space shall:

  1. in a Whole School Project, be easily accessible from all areas, conveniently positioned in relation to the kitchen and/ or serving areas, and be designed so that the space can be used during timetabled lessons without disturbing pupils who are working nearby
  1. have sufficient circulation or other space next to the dining area for queuing and circulation at mealtimes, including for those using Mobility Equipment, without impinging on the dining tables
  1. have an efficient layout with adequate seating capacity Where a specific dining area is required in the School-Specific SoA and ADS, the contractor shall ensure that it is designed so that there is adequate space for till points, where required, and serving areas to service the number of diners in any sitting, as given in the School-Specific SoA and ADS or SSB. Where required in the SSB or the School-Specific SoA and ADS, the Contractor shall also design the space to facilitate the requirements for distribution of food to dining areas in other areas of the School In dining areas, the Contractor shall ensure that the FF&E [Fittings, Furniture and Equipment] used, and the associated FF&E layout meets the following requirements.

  1. There is a logical flow of pupils round the dining space from arrival, queuing to collect food (both hot and cold) eating and self-clearing, based on the number of lunch sessions, the number of pay stations (where relevant) and the hot/cold split, as outlined in the School- Specific SoA and ADS and SSB.
  2. Space is provided for food vending trolleys and dirty/waste collection points.
  3. There is sufficient circulation space for pupils to move between dining tables and to allow a wheelchair user to access some tables and dine alongside other pupils.
  4. The servery has a tray slide and supports to ensure an efficient service and pupils’ safety
  5. There is adequate seating capacity for the allocated amount of time and the number of pupils, as specified in the SSB.
  6. Provision of storage furniture with sufficient space around it, as defined in the SSB.

Dining Shelter in Wiltshire at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy

Royal Wootton Bassett Academy Dining CanopyEverybody loves a bit of fresh air, and Royal Wootton Bassett Academy were especially keen to add additional space to their outdoor grounds. Adding a dining shelter would give their staff and students an extra area to unwind and socialise during the lunch period, plus they knew it would do a world of good to their health both physically and mentally. Having already been impressed with the designs offered by A&S Landscape, Royal Wootton Bassett Academy reached out wanting a shelter that would have multi-purpose. Protection from all-weather types, but also an appealing and eye-catching outdoor area that would be an incentive for their students to head outside during break times. After an initial consultation, the design team installed a Motiva Linear™ with Mint Turquoise steelwork with Opal roofing. Royal Wootton Bassett Academy were incredibly pleased with their new dining shelter – the finished product had the exact look and feel they were after. It was modern in its appearance, and the perfect space where their children could relax. We were extremely delighted to be able to create a space that served all the needs of this school, they were a pleasure to collaborate with during the entire process. Click here to find out some more about this outdoor dining shelter for Royal Wootton Bassett Academy.

Dining Canopy at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College in Gloucestershire

Fabric shelter we manufactured for South Gloucester CollegeWith the unpredictable British Weather, South Gloucestershire and Stroud College were hoping to have some shelter just outside their canteen. They needed something that offered a shield on those wet rainy days, but also protection from the hot sunny days. With a shade sail structure in mind, the school reached out to A&S Landscape, which led to the installation of the eye-catching and stylish Maxima Sail™, in Gentian Blue steelwork, finished with a lovely green fabric roof. They told us that it has completely uplifted and enhanced the whole look of the cafeteria area. Everyone is thoroughly enjoying the new dining area as it is the perfect unique space where staff and students can eat and socialise outdoors no matter the season. The shelter can also be used as an outdoor classroom, which has proved to be very popular amongst all attending the college. We were delighted to assist and guide this college to ensure we delivered a solution of a high standard. Learn more about this shade sail structure, for South Gloucestershire and Stroud College here.

Outdoor Shelters at Ryde Academy in the Isle of Wight

Ryde Academy Dining Area CanopyWith two canopies being an essential necessity, Ryde Academy wanted to have a dining area plus an extra shelter and space joining their sports pitches. High quality, value for money and aesthetically pleasing were important criteria to the staff of this school. After a thorough consultation with A&S Landscape, Ryde Academy chose Motiva Mono™ for their courtyard and dining shelter, with lovely glazed panels providing the protection they were looking for no matter what the weather served, along with a Motiva Duo™ for the canopy next to the sports pitches – providing ample space with a very easy on the eye curved roof design. Installing these two facilities has significantly reduced pressures on the indoor facilities at Ryde Academy – now there is ample space where children can spend their lunchtimes and also use the sports pitch shelter regardless of the weather. We were extremely proud to be able to provide the school with not one but two canopies, especially within their budget without compromising on the quality and durability of both shelters. You can learn more about these outdoor shelters for Ryde Academy here.

Dining Canopy at St Mary’s and St John’s CE School in Greater London

St Mary’s and St John’s CE SchoolSt Mary's and St John's School Dining Canopy were keen to reduce the pressures on their indoor cafeteria facilities, with the additional benefit of providing a space where their pupils could enjoy their break times if they wished to. After a detailed discussion with A&S Landscape, the school chose a Motiva Duo™ – an ideal outdoor dining area, as it is both appealing and effective in its standalone structure. Having this large outdoor dining canopy, made to a size of 10000mm x 8000mm, has certainly reduced the queues indoors during lunchtimes. Plus it’s been a great meeting point for pupils to socialise and dine without worrying about the unpredictable British weather. The canopy is both classic and robust, which were two important factors to the school when they approached us. We were pleased to provide a product that was extremely useful to St Mary’s and St John’s CE School, and one which respected their budget. Working with this school was extremely easy and effortless as they were incredibly polite, professional and helpful during the entire process from start to finish. Click here for more details on this dining canopy installation for St Mary’s and St John’s CE School.

Dining Shelter in Merseyside at Lord Derby Academy

Lord Derby AcademyLord Derby Academy Dining Canopy were keen to invest in increasing their outdoor seating capacity. This would help reduce the pressure of overcrowding in their indoor facilities during break and lunchtimes. With an additional dining area outside, staff and students could enjoy the fresh air during the lunch period, plus socialise with their peers and friends. A&S Landscape installed a Motiva Duo™ curved roof canopy, featuring Wine Red steelwork and Opal polycarbonate roofing. Everyone at the school loves their new shelter – they can now dine and socialise outside regardless of the weather, plus it’s aesthetically pleasing too! They have been impressed with the versatility of this canopy as they can also use it as an outdoor classroom, which will add some excitement to their lessons and help motivate the students’ learning. It was a real pleasure collaborating with this great school. Click here to find out more about the dining shelter canopy at Lord Derby Academy.

How To Optimise Your School Dining Room And Create A Positive Dining Experience For Your Students

Creating a positive dining experience for students can not only increase the uptake of school meals but can also have a positive impact on the school day and school life as it can invoke a profound sense of happiness and calm. These two elements, the happy, sociable students and the uptake of school meals, usually leads to successful health and wellbeing inspections.

Furthermore, your students will feel more motivated to eat healthily if they have a pleasant environment to enjoy their food, without experiencing overcrowding and lengthy lunch lines!

Several components combine to create a great dining experience and lunch period, the design is a key element to start with. To consider the design you must first understand what problems you are seeking to resolve, and which issues you might encounter in the future. The good news is that you can typically make many adjustments, such as changing the seating arrangement, with very limited funds or upheaval!

How To Determine What Your School Canteen Needs

Taking the time to determine what your school’s canteen needs are will reduce both delays and potential design mistakes in the long term. It will also help you factor in a realistic budget and time frame for implementing your project from start to finish. Here are some considerations you’ll need to make before you get started.

You may be aware of some of your school dining hall needs, but you cannot get a full picture without input from others. When assessing your school canteen needs, your students and catering staff will likely have plenty of vital ideas or complaints about their existing service that can help you fully understand all of your school canteen needs.

Here are a few strategies for discovering what exactly it is that will make your school canteen a hub of social relaxation and enjoyment, enough so, that it’ll increase the uptake of school dinners at lunch time at your school.

Conduct Surveys And Request Feedback

Group discussions, surveys and student feedback will highlight some of the most obvious problems or solutions. This is easily implemented through student feedback boxes, assemblies, the school newsletter (or email notifications) or through parent’s evenings. It’s also useful to observe the dining room personally during the lunch period, or have other staff members do so too, to identify any other issues that need resolving.

Gather Inspiration

Before making decisions about what you want to implement in your school dining hall, it’s worth researching other school dining halls, cafes, and dining spaces to gather plenty of inspiration for your project.

Consider Common School Canteen Problems

Schools often have similar problems with their school dining halls. Identifying these problems and factoring in solutions to them will give you some inspiration to help you consider all potential issues your school canteen might experience and will allow you to optimise your design. You’ll find more information about some of the most common school canteen problems further on in this article.

Do You Have Enough Space?

However, you will need to determine whether the space you currently have allocated to your school canteen is enough to meet your goals, now, or in the near future, or whether you’ll require extra dining space? It’s vital to be realistic about your space, or lack of, at the design stage, so that you can make decisions about how to solve any problems now, or if you’ll simply need to create a plan to make adjustments in the future.

Do You Need To Plan For Future Growth?

If your school is growing steadily, making plans to accommodate the growth now could save you from having to make costly improvements in the future.

Have You Considered How To Improve Traffic And Reduce Bottlenecks?

Other considerations you may need to make are how you will manage footfall and the flow of traffic in and out of your dining space to reduce or eliminate bottlenecks. Furniture can help you to direct traffic but it’s important to consider hot spots. For example, how students access and leave the school canteen. If they use the same door for both, will this lead to problems?

Have You Considered Ways To Optimise Your Existing Space?

Some schools may not have quite enough space to implement their ideal strategy for their school canteen. However, there are usually options to create more dining space throughout the school. For example, providing outdoor seating, or turning another space into a temporary dining area at lunchtimes.

Aim To Create An Inviting And Relaxing Space

The main goal for your school canteen should be to create a comfortable space that is inviting and relaxing. This approach will lead to the creation of a dining hall that will encourage more students to use your school canteen and will help your students relax in between lessons.

Like most schools, your school canteen space will be limited. But that doesn’t mean that there are no options that can totally transform the amount of space you have. In some situations, there are budget-friendly solutions that are easily implemented without having to build an extension to your school. Keep on reading to find more tips on how to optimise your school dining hall space further on in this article.

Set A Budget

Your budget and timelines may expand beyond your original expectations as you begin to assess what you need to implement to optimise your school dining experience. So it’s important to factor this risk in. It’s beneficial for you to consider how you may acquire additional funding for your projects so that you can accomplish your goals before you begin your project.

There are no hard and fast rules about how you go about setting up your school canteen project, or how you manage it, but the points above are a good starting point to help you discover the unique combination of services, strategies and design that will work for your school.

What Are The Typical Problems Most School Canteens Face?

Typical problems most schools will experience in their school canteens are:

School Dining Hall Usage

One of the biggest problems for most schools is that there aren’t enough students who are using the school canteen facilities. Which can lead to unhealthier eating, reduced socialisation and a downturn in school ethos.

School Canteen Queues

Students hate queues, for good reason. They don’t want to spend all of their valuable social time standing in a long queue. Nor do you want them to, not least because break times should be relaxing and fun for the students but also because you need to manage the footfall in your school canteen to meet everybody’s needs. Paying attention to the queues will significantly improve the school canteen experience for everyone involved.

Limited School Canteen Space And Seating Facilities

If there’s nowhere to sit, or your school dining hall feels cramped and stuffy, you’re not going to see an uptake in the use of your facilities from students. This is an important issue that almost always needs careful consideration.

How Does Good School Dining Design Improve The Students’ Experience?

Good design incorporates features that will enhance and optimise the way students use and experience your school canteen. These features include the following:

1. Visual

Visual elements such as feature walls displaying positive healthy eating and school ethos messages make a significant difference to the way your students will feel while they are using this space. You can enhance their mood, remind them of what’s important and use imagery to create the relaxed and comfortable space necessary to optimise your school canteen.

Promote Your School have several examples of how schools across the UK are implementing wall art to create stunning visual displays that convey healthy eating messages or messages that highlight school values on feature walls. We particularly appreciated Hazelwood School’s canteen table tops, incorporating images of fruit and vegetables to create a vibrant surface for students to eat on.

Reigate St Mary’s Preparatory And Choir School canteen art also inspired us, their fresh clean feature wall and canteen vibe is reminiscent of a day at the beach which brings the outdoors in and helps to create the sense of space a student will need to enjoy a satisfactory break. Other features that can influence the visual element of your school dining hall lies in the menu design, the displaying of children’s artwork, and the colour of the walls.

2. Ambience

Acoustics, music, lighting and temperature all go hand-in-hand to create the perfect ambience for any situation. Get them wrong and it can change the vibe in a flash.

Managing The Acoustics

Your school dining hall will be a busy, noisy place naturally. Which, with the wrong acoustics could become too loud and unbearable. You can manage the acoustics by reducing the amount of glass and hard surfaces you have in the room. If you find you have a lot of this type of surface try countering them with the inclusion of soft notice boards, student artwork, plants or by adding softer materials like fabric to a wall.

Adding Music

Similarly, adding soft music can help to absorb some of the dining room clatter but can also help to lift the mood and create the right kind of relaxing sociable atmosphere that is usually fitting for a school canteen.

3. Lighting

School Dining HallYou’ll need bright task lighting designs at the service areas within your school canteen, too much soft light could send your students to sleep. However, the lighting shouldn’t be so harsh that your students can’t relax, a soft natural light is the ideal level to aim for. Try adding lighting over the dining area or tables that you can add a lampshade too, which will provide the right level of bright vibrant light with a relaxed vibe. The addition of lampshades can also help to control the acoustics too.

4. Temperature

In some schools, especially where there are lots of windows it’s not just acoustics you’ll be dealing with. You’ll need to find a way to control the heat so that you can provide a cool enough space in the summer and warm enough space in the winter. There are a range of options to this problem: adding blinds, shades or window coverings to the mass of glass can help, or you might consider tinting your windows with heat controlling film or adding a canopy to the exterior which will provide extra shade to both the interior and exterior.

5. Furniture and Layout

It’s not just the look of the furniture that you need to consider for your school dining hall. To do so, will take advantage of only one purpose. You can use furniture and colour to segment your dining hall, create space to manage and direct the traffic, and create a vibrant ambience. Options for furniture may include, normal seats, booths, benches or tall stools (or a combination of all four options if you have space). The first step is to determine how much seating is required and how much space you’ll need to direct the footfall. Then work out what furniture will best suit the space.

Five Ways To Optimise Your School Dining Hall Design For Efficiency

There are many ways to optimise the efficiency of your school canteen, the idea is that you want to provide an organised and streamlined service that is easy for your canteen staff to manage while reducing the queuing and wait times that your students might experience. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

1. Publish Your Menu Ahead Of Time

Get into the habit of sharing your menu with students ahead of lunchtime to minimise the time a student takes to choose their options. You may even consider a pre-order system if your budget allows. Ways you can circulate the menu might be to create large posters displaying the menu and posting on the common notice boards around the school. Have the kitchen staff or teachers share the menu or discuss the specials during registration, or send the menus home.

2. Adopt A Solid Food Labelling System

School Dinner FoodFood labelling increases school canteen efficiency by reducing the amount of time canteen staff might have to take to answer student’s questions about the food on display and can reduce queue time significantly. It also provides opportunities for the school canteen to easily communicate information about the nature of the food on display. For example, your label might include what the food is, what the ingredients are and whether it’s appropriate food for differing diets such as vegan, whether it’s suitable for people with nut allergies or if the food is halal or not.

3. Provide Easy Access Food Stations

Set up stations in your school canteen with pre-packaged food ready for students to grab and go. Providing this facility will move some students through your queuing system faster and will speed up the service provision. To successfully implement this facility you’ll need to adhere to stringent food labelling practices and consider moving your grab and go food items to a separate area of the school dining hall, to optimise efficiency. Students who want to enjoy the ‘fast food’ facility won’t get caught up in the queues for hot food for example. If you make most of your easy access food healthy options too, then this service will help you to encourage healthy eating.

4. Create Additional Pay And Collection Points

If you have the space, and means, adding multiple areas where your students can access food and pay will help to divert the footfall and reduce queue time. The main advantage of this strategy is to improve the sense of efficiency to the students using your school canteen services. It may not be as efficient financially, since you’ll need to factor in additional staffing and space.

5. Implement Staggered Lunch Times

If you have enough additional seating for slower eaters, it may be worth considering allocating a time zone for students to access the school canteen which you can sort by year group. Or consider making your canteens lunchtime session twice as long so that you can make the most of staggering lunchtimes. In this scenario, some students may start lunch at 12 pm to 1 pm whereas other groups may start their lunch at 12.30pm to 1.30pm or 1 pm to 2 pm and so on. Of course, this latter approach to staggered lunchtimes involves amendments to your school lesson timetable too.

What Should You Do If You Need More Space For Your School Dining Hall?

Having multiple pay points, grab and go bars and extra seating in your new well-laid-out school dining hall might be a great idea, but it’s only useful if you can find the extra space. Fortunately, there are several ways that you can create enough space to lay out your best plans and some options don’t stretch your school budget too far.

Here are some ideas for how you can increase or optimise the space in your school canteen.

Maximise Your Existing Dining Space

If you’re lucky enough, you might find smarter ways to maximise your existing school dining hall. Perhaps changing the furniture or moving it around will allow you to increase the amount of seating you provide or will create enough space for you to manage the footfall or add additional food bars without adding additional square footage. From there it’s worth considering minor adjustments. can make it to your dining hall.

For example, If you have storage in the dining area, could you move it out of the dining hall and into another area of your school? Can you move an interior wall further out? The first port of call when considering your space should be to assess what options you have, if any, for making the space work better for your school’s needs without making too many adjustments.

Implement Food Carts

To optimise your school canteen’s efficiency further, consider adding a food cart, or an additional grab and go bar in your hall. When creating this kind of space, you’ll need to consider how you can encourage social interactions between those students who purchase grab-and-go food versus those who purchase a hot meal. In this situation, providing food to go in take away boxes is a useful solution for those students who want a hot meal but want to eat it outside of your main canteen.

Add Outside Seating

Green dining shelter we made for Oasis Academy CoulsdonYou may already have some kind of outdoor seating available for your students but there are usually opportunities to increase the dining potential outdoors in most schools. And all you need are some additional picnic tables and benches and some shady spots or parasols. Adding outdoor bins will help you keep your school tidy while optimising the efficiency of your canteen. And if you add an awning or other kind of shelter, your students will likely use the outdoor seating even when it’s raining, at least in the warmer months.

Consider Mobile Food Servers, And Mobile Grab And Go Bars

Mobile food servers can transform the efficiency of your school canteen by diverting footfall and will allow you to provide a convenient service to your students no matter where your school dining seating is located around your school. For example, you might create a sandwich and salad bar or baked potato station.

Some schools in the United States offer food truck services to their students, which may be worth considering for your school, particularly if you have older students. Catering trailers are also rapidly finding their way into UK schools, which are the perfect way to create an alternative food station to cater to your students.

Create A Multi-Use School Dining Area

A school hall is a perfect location to host additional indoor seating. All you’ll need are foldable chairs and tables, some storage space to keep the furniture in and the resources to set up your dining space daily et voila, you’ve got extra seating for your students. If you want to keep the vibrant dining theme that you have created in your actual dining hall going, then consider adding dividing screens containing the same messages that you have in your school canteen.

Typically, a well-designed and fully functional multi-use dining area will require the following features and considerations:

Careful Planning

Where possible, it’s best to schedule your school’s activities so that they don’t require the use of your multifunctional room just before, or after lunchtime. You’ll need to allow time to set up (if you’re using portable tables and chairs) and for clearing up after lunchtime. If you make your schedules too tight, you could find that your ‘multipurpose room’ solution becomes counterintuitive. It could cause students to have to rush, or queue for the facilities and may lead to extra work or frustration for your catering staff who may find themselves rushing to clear up.

Foldable And Stackable Furniture

Unless you’re using a classroom or combination of classrooms as your multipurpose dining space, you’re going to need some portable furniture. Especially if you decide to use your hall or other communal spaces within your school. You’ll also need a place to store your furniture with easy access to your multi-purpose room. The last thing your kitchen staff will need is to be walking a significant distance with furniture to set up for lunchtime every day! The furniture should be light, compact and ideally should fit in with your school canteen themes and messages.


Add tablecloths to your service areas, along with themed notice boards that either complement the school canteen’s decor or the decor of the room you’re using. For example, if you’re using your sports hall, you might consider adding a sports cafe, so that you can keep the healthy eating decor up permanently while keeping to a theme.

Menu Displays

As previously mentioned, keeping your menu out on display will help to create the canteen vibe but also reduce the queue times. It’s worth displaying your menu’s permanently in your multi-purpose rooms so that the students know where to look for them.

How To Encourage Healthy Eating In Your School Canteen

School Salad BarOne of the best ways to encourage healthy eating in your school is to involve your students so that they can become immersed and invested in the food you offer and can learn how to make healthier choices, and why they should.

Taster sessions and competitions for students to design the menu are always great ideas. But you could take it further by creating focus groups who come up with recipes for the menu. Or by providing goals for the students to challenge themselves with. For example, you might encourage your students to eat a piece of fruit daily, and in return, they get a loyalty stamp and at the end of a set period, the student can get a reward, like a free drink, or perhaps other longer-term or larger benefits that your school may be able to create.

Make Your Food Attractive

Just in the same way, commercial eateries need to keep their food fresh, your catering staff will need to do the same. Work out how you can serve food without keeping it on display too long, and how you can create enticing displays. Salads are usually very visually appealing and will also help to encourage your students to begin to add this to their lunch on a regular basis.

Create Healthy Meal Deals

Daily meal deals which are more cost-effective than the usual food options will encourage healthy eating, especially if the meal deals always include healthy options. It’s important to make the offer enticing for the student though. Offering lentils, salad and fruit even at the best price probably won’t work. But adding a salad or piece of fruit and a healthy drink into the deal, and replacing chips with vegetables or adding hot meals to the deals will all move the child towards making healthier choices.

Provide Incentives For Healthy Eating

We’ve briefly touched on this idea in an earlier suggestion. But if a student has incentives to eat healthier, they probably will. If you’re not sure what incentives to provide, ask your students to make suggestions. Ideas could include discounts, loyalty stamps to exchange for a prize, and faster queuing.

Host Food Festivals

Food festivals, themed days, or providing sample food will involve your students and encourage them to take part and try the food on offer. These opportunities will lead children into trying foods they wouldn’t otherwise have tried and will open their minds (or tastebuds) so that they’re tempted to try healthier foods in the future.

Many factors combine to create a vibrant and exciting school canteen experience for your students. This is why it’s necessary to spend a large amount of time researching, planning and preparing. Once you’ve implemented your plans there are several final touches you might want to include. These include finding ways to promote social interaction which means encouraging friends who eat different types of food to eat together. Creating an environment that your students value as their own, can only occur through positive interactions and encouraged input and feedback from your students.

Ideally, you’re looking for ways in which you can remove tension and replace that with positive relaxed vibes. And it’s important to remember that what is tension to a fourteen-year-old teenager will be quite different to that of a five-year-old. Trying to understand how your students will experience your school dining hall and then fixing potential issues is a fast-track for delivering an outstanding school canteen experience and for increasing the uptake of school meals – particularly the healthy options!

Read more of our featured dining canopy projects

Dining Area Canopy Installed at St Wilfrid’s RC College in West Yorkshire

Enclosed canopy we designed for St Wilfird's SchoolThe cost of an extension can be prohibitive to a stretched school budget. This was the challenge facing St Wilfrid’s RC College in Featherstone, West Yorkshire. Guaranteeing the health and wellbeing of their students during lunchtimes was a priority that they needed to address. The school’s existing facilities could only accommodate half of the required student capacity. This is where A&S Landscape came in. They designed an alternative structure to support the required dining capacity. Using the features of the curved roof canopy of the Motiva Duo range as the basis for a new dining area canopy, A&S Landscape then added glass panelling and a door to enclose the facility so that it could be used all-year-round. With the addition of heating and lighting, the space became a comfortable eating area. As an additional bespoke flourish, A&S Landscape added St Wilfrid’s logo to the glass panelling. To read more about the dining area canopy at St Wilfrid’s RC College, click here.

Outside Dining Canopy Installed at Rhymney Comprehensive School in Tredegar, South Wales

Canopy we installed at Rhymney SchoolRhymney Comprehensive School in Tredegar is surrounded by rolling green fields. Even on the rainiest days, there’s nothing better than taking in the fresh air and the views. So when the school decided that an outside canopy would enable their pupils to be outside more, A&S Landscape knew that there’d be an option to suit. Initially spoilt for choice, the school eventually settled on the Motiva Duo model, adding an opal effect roof and finished in Squirrel Grey. This created a space that the students immediately embraced, and the shelter is in demand even on the rainier days. The school now plans to add seating and tables so the space can be used for outside dining. The benefit of an outside dining canopy is that the space will be used even more, and we’re sure that there’ll be plenty of competition from the students to grab a seat at lunchtime! See why the students at Rhymney Comprehensive School will be flocking to use this canopied outside dining space here.

Curved Roof Dining Area Canopy Project Completed at Rushcliffe School in Nottingham

Dining area canopy we designed for Rushcliffe SchoolThis was a real makeover project for A&S Landscape! From an ugly duckling in a sorry state to a swan sitting pride of place in the former quad area of the school. When Rushcliffe School in Nottingham approached us for a solution, they already knew that they wanted to revamp the area which was unused. The aim of the project was to increase the amount of dining space for students, and the school was keen to create an outside eating area, protected by a dining area canopy. As the school had grown, they needed to bring in to use areas of the building that were not adding value. The Motiva Duo dining area canopy range was perfect for this refurbishment project. The area was turned quickly and efficiently into a usable space that provided students with a quality outside eating area. Find out about the dining area canopy we installed at Rushcliffe School.

West Hatch High School in Essex at Freestanding, Curved Roof Shelter

Shelter we installed at West Hatch High SchoolWest Hatch High School needed to find a solution to their cramped dining hall which wouldn’t break the bank. A&S Landscape had the perfect option in mind, which came in the form of an outdoor dining shelter. Our installation team added a Motiva Duo™ curved roof canopy to the school, complete with Brown Red coloured steelwork. The covered space can now be used as additional seating for the students during lunchtimes, relieving pressure from the existing facilities. As a cost-effective alternative to a formal building extension, it’s no surprise that more and more schools are choosing to install a dining shelter. Click here to see more about the dining shelter we made for West Hatch High School.

Sale High School Add Curved Roof Shelter in Greater Manchester

Dining area canopy we installed at Sale High SchoolAn underused decking area was the focus for this project at Sale High School. The school needed to create more space for the students during lunchtime and decided to revamp an unloved area on campus. Our design and installation team completely transformed the space into an outdoor dining area, complete with a newly tarmacked surface and curved roof canopy. With the simple addition of a few benches, the area can be used by the students who are looking for an alfresco lunch experience. Covering an overall area of 10000mm x 6000mm, there is plenty of room for many students to enjoy the space. Head over to our project page to see more about the dining shelter at Sale High School.