How much have canteen prices changed since last year across Australia?

School canteens operate in a highly unique environment. There are various providers of this service who have vastly different goals. While a canteen outsourced to a 3rd party will have goals pertaining to profitability, much like any small business, those run by either the school or parent association will often try to just cover the incurred costs.

These canteens are under pressure to price menu items correctly:

  • firstly, because they are community-focussed and want to ensure that parents are offered a fair and affordable price; and

  • secondly, because they need to ensure that, at a minimum, the canteen remains financially viable into the future.

This pressure is often compounded by the fact that there is only one canteen operating in each school and many suppliers do not have access to an industry group with the resources and reach to provide valuable insight into trends and best practice, which might otherwise assist suppliers in balancing these competing considerations.

Where menus are not priced correctly, it often becomes hard for not-for-profit entities to keep their service available on lower volume days. From discussing with our Flexischools community, we’ve heard of many schools that are either reducing service days or considering a full closure due to not being able to cover costs.

To combat this, Flexischools has committed to offer its customers valuable insights into industry trends and best practice. This includes the following initiatives:

1.     Historical Price Trend Information

We have aggregated, anonymised and analysed over 77,000 menu items in the Flexischools database to identify the average historical (point-in-time) price of the most common food categories sold throughout the start of Term 1, 2023.

When comparing this against prices from a similar period of the previous year, we identified that there had been a notable increase of prices in these categories over the past year.

Popular canteen menu items in 2022 vs 2023:

Key insights:

  • The price of all common food categories increased in 2023.

  • The cost of fruit grew the most, with a 14% increase.

  • The cost of frozen items grew the second most, with a 13% increase.

Please note that these prices have been derived from a historical point-in-time and do not represent any future prices or price intentions of Flexischools’ customers.


2.     Flexischools Menu Review

To further help the community, Flexischools is offering to assist menu reviews for our customers.

We will analyse your menu prices and compare this to the 2023 Flexischools historical (point-in-time) average prices to understand how your menu currently stands.

We will also give you a list of your top five items sold.

There are many factors that go into the price of a menu item, including the desired profits, or lack thereof, and the demographic of the school and its community.

This information is not a prescriptive list of how one should price their menu, upwards or downwards, but we hope it provides some colour to the overall industry trends.


3.     Top Selling Items

It can also sometimes be a challenge for service providers to know what items are most popular at other schools.

This information can be really valuable if you would like to add some items to your menu, but you are not sure which items might be popular.

Top selling items on Flexischools and Average Historical (point-in-time) Price:

What you can do to encourage parents to order from your canteen:

1.     Newsletter and social media posts

Another way to increase profits is to encourage more parents to order from your canteen.

A terrific way to do this is by posting in your school newsletter or social media channels (e.g., Facebook and Instagram).

A few topics to post about:

  • How to order food via your online ordering system (if you have one)

  • New menu items

  • Changes in pricing

  • Discounts and deals

  • Special canteen days

  • Service cut-off times

With Flexischools, you can send instant messages and updates to parents via our Parent Communications feature. This is the easiest way to keep parents updated and encourage them to order from your canteen.

2.     Hold a special canteen day

Holding a special canteen day for events such as Harmony Day, Mother's Day, and Father's Day can be a fun way to encourage families to order from your canteen!

As an example, you could celebrate Australia’s cultural diversity on Harmony Day by selling dishes from various countries.

The new and unique menu items may prompt more parents than usual to order lunch for their children from your canteen.

It is super easy to set up a special canteen day in the Flexischools Supplier Portal.

Want to learn more about Flexischools? Click here.


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