Choosing a new menu item


A little planning will go a long way to ensure you select the most appropriate, popular and cost-effective items for your food service menu.

a cup of fruits including kiwis, grapes and dragonfruits

Use the steps below to make the most of new items.

Step 1: Choose a healthy option

Is the new food or drink classified as Green (Everyday) or Amber (Select Carefully)?

Refer to the Canteens, Healthy Eating and Other Food Services for information about the Green (Everyday), Amber (Select Carefully) and Red (Occasionally) food and drink categories.
Over 50% of menu items should be Green (Everyday) and less than 50% of menu items should be Amber (Select Carefully).
Red (Occasionally) items should not be supplied on the regular school food service menu, and should not be provided more than twice per term.
Could the new item/s be made Green-er?Try adding extra Green (Everyday) ingredients to serve the Green-est version possible.

Step 2: Include variety

Does your menu contain a variety of different healthy items in the hot foods, cold foods, snacks and drinks sections? E.g. at least two different options in each section.Try to select new items that increase the variety of healthy options in each section of the menu.

Step 3: Offer something for all

Does your menu cater for a range of ages and appetite levels? E.g. primary and secondary students, physically active students and school staff.
Consider selling items in suitable sizes for different age groups and appetite levels.
Does your menu cater for special dietary requirements? E.g. halal, vegetarian, gluten free or lactose free.Gather suggestions from the school community about the foods and drinks they would like to be available.

Step 4: Be realistic

Do you have the right equipment to prepare and store the new item?Seek ways to use equipment you already have in multiple ways.
Do your staff and volunteers have the skills needed to prepare the new item?Consider staff training by other staff, volunteers or parents.
Can you prepare the required quantity of the new item in time for the recess/lunch break?Consider making in bulk and freeze in single serve portions to be thawed/reheated as needed.
Do you have the right equipment to prepare and store the new item?Seek ways to use equipment you already have in multiple ways.

Step 5: Is the price right?

Is the selling price profitable? Use the Recipe costing template to work out a suitable selling price to cover costs and make a profit.Use cheaper produce in season, or consider increasing the costs of a less healthy item to offset the gap.

Step 6: Selling and serving the item

Will it be available over the counter, or will students need to pre-order?Consider preparation time, packaging and how it will be served.
Is the new item likely to be on the regular menu, or sold as a ‘one-off’ for special events? E.g. theme days and sport days.See Healthy school celebration ideas for lots of simple ideas to celebrate in fun and healthy ways.
Is the item suitable for the season? E.g. colder foods in summer, warmer foods in winter.Decide when the item would be most in demand.

Step 7: Review your checklist

Review your answers above and decide if it is practical to introduce this new item.Trial the item as a ‘special’ to test its popularity and gather feedback from the school community before placing it on the menu. Consider adapting the item to better suit your needs or introduce a different item.

Step 8: Trial and review successes

Trials can be carried out: by offering taste testing or special (discounted) deals during a number of lunch breaks or over a school term, and in different months of the year, as the season can affect an item’s popularity. Following a trial, gather feedback and amend the item to improve its popularity and success!

For more information please phone 1300 22 52 88 or email

Except where otherwise indicated, the images in this document show models and illustrative settings only, and do not necessarily depict actual services, facilities or recipients of services. This document may contain images of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In this document, ‘Aboriginal’ refers to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. ‘Indigenous’ or ‘Koori/Koorie’ is retained when part of the title of a report, program or quotation. Copyright © State of Victoria 2016

Written and reviewed by dietitians and nutritionists at Nutrition Australia, with support from the Victorian Government.

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