woman and man discussing inventory in warehouse school meals management software

Is Your School Meals Management Software Failing You? Here’s How to Tell

Managing a school meals program is a complicated task. School meals management requires that an administrator plan menus, identify and order needed supplies, and keep track of the cafeteria’s current inventory. 

There are plenty of school meals management software options available online explicitly designed for K-12 schools, but it’s important to find one that’s not outdated, ineffective, or that lacks necessary core features.  

If you’re unsure about whether or not your school meals management software is letting you down, review these five signs that your software is failing you.

There’s a Lack of Participation 

A clear lack of participation in the lunch program is one sign that your school meals management software isn’t working.

If the majority of students and staff bring bagged lunches from home, it likely signals that some aspect of the meal management program isn’t working.  Any number of reasons affect the number of students participating in the school meal program, including:

  • students aren’t aware of the current menu
  • meal payment is inconvenient for the students or parents
  • there are questions about the nutritional value

This goes for the staff, too, who also have the choice of purchasing meals at most schools. 

Top-of-the-line meals management solutions solve all of these issues. Look for a tool that offers the following to increase student and staff participation:

  • Digital boards. Place digital displays in the cafeteria, advertising available food items and their nutritious properties and products from third-party companies. These visually engaging displays come with music, and make it easy for students to review their meal options even if they weren’t planning on setting foot in the lunch line.

  • Online ordering. When students and staff can order their meals in advance, there’s no need to worry about bringing payments daily. Parents pay online in advance, and students have their meal of choice guaranteed.

  • Nutrition information. Eating well is a priority for many students and staff members. Sharing nutrition information for upcoming meals will increase participation significantly.

  • Payment app. An easy payment option is always good news for students, parents, and administrators. If your school meals management software doesn’t have an online or mobile payment option for parents and staff, replace it with one that does. The cafeteria lines will speed up, and a program that’s convenient increases participation. 

School Meals Management Software that Causes Slow Service 

Slow service is the last thing you want when you’re feeding both hungry students and staff members. Students only have a thirty-minute window to get their lunch and eat.

Meanwhile, you’re facilitating 100+ hungry kids through just a few lines; the pace of your lunch lines is vital for program participation.

Slow payment systems are the last thing you need, and your school meals software should speed up the process with the following:

  • A fast, intuitive POS system that allows cafeteria workers to quickly process payments so that everything keeps moving. This system should integrate with the school’s overall financial reporting to keep things easy on your administrators, too.

  • Online ordering, that allows you to have meals ready and waiting for students ahead of time, streamlining the process.

  • Digital menu boards, so students and staff see what’s the menu and decide what they’d like to order before they even make it into the lunch line. This speeds up the process, preventing students from pausing once they’re actually at the counter while keeping them entertained at the same time. 

There’s Lost or Missing Inventory 

Inventory management for school meals is complex. Estimating the number of meals you need to prepare and then managing the inventory requires a careful balancing act. It doesn’t help that some of the inventory is perishable.  

Despite its intricacies, coming across lost or misplaced inventory should be a rare occurrence. Lost inventory negatively impacts your program in significant ways. Inventory loss causes a direct loss in profit and potentially results in a shortage of critical ingredients. 

Some school meals management tools lack reliable inventory management functionality. They make it easy to plan menus or even order provisions, but you can’t track any of those provisions once they make their way to you. 

Choose software that offers full inventory management for best results. 

You See Excessive Lunch Debt in your School Meals Management Software

Lunch debt is a pervasive issue for school meals programs. Most cafeteria staff don’t  turn away hungry students when their account balance is low. As a result, the balance drops into the negative.

When the end of the year comes rolling around, and there’s an enormous amount of uncollected debt that the school becomes responsible for.

Your administration doesn’t want to hold someone’s diploma hostage in hopes of receiving some of those payments. Changing your school meals management software offers tools to avoid the situation entirely.

Tools like Meals Plus integrate with different solutions that allow parents to prepay for student meals. Some of these tools automatically remind parents when the balance is running low or a payment is overdue. Being proactive is key. 

It’s Difficult to Organize Free & Reduced-Cost Program Participants 

Most K-12 schools will have some students who qualify for free or reduced-cost meals. Unfortunately, too many management tools can’t help you organize lists of students who should benefit from these programs efficiently.

Choose software that simplifies the process of organizing free and reduced-cost program participants

An online application option for these programs is an essential element; online forms are convenient to complete and eliminate data entry errors. The easier the applications are for parents to complete, the more likely it is that students who need these programs will actually benefit from them.

You also want to look for a tool that offers full integration with the school’s SIS, ensuring that all student data is current. Ideally, find software that updates in real-time. 


A school meals program has a lot of moving parts, but the right tools keep track of all of them for you. This means choosing high-quality, reliable, and advanced school meals management software that offers every functionality and feature you need.

If your school meals management software is hurting you instead of helping you, it’s time for a change. Consider an option like Meals Plus. This software streamlines every part of the process.

It offers full integration with other school systems, allows for online ordering and digital menus, has payment apps and reminders, and makes inventory management a breeze. 

Are you interested in changing your school meals management software? Learn more about what Meals Plus has to offer here.

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