Optimising Your School Dining Room And Creating 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.