To support and empower tuckshops to become more financially viable, in 2019 QAST worked closely with 21 Queensland schools in the Tuckshop Turnaround Project. The project was funded by the Department of Education.
Proving a success, many school tuckshops went on to report triumphs, like profit increases, healthier menus and greater sales.
In 2022 we touched base with one of the project’s success stories, Freshwater State School. Here’s how they are performing two years later.
Project findings and QAST recommendations
In 2018, the tuckshop was running at a loss of $15,000, while 2019 saw them slip into the red by $35,000.
In response to this QAST made many recommendations to help them turn things around, including:
- Looking at wages and increasing the efficiency of staff
- Implementing online ordering
- Increased marketing to attract volunteers
- Making all communication clear and transparent.
After the project wrapped up, the tuckshop agreed on the following two, clear goals:
- Break even, as a minimum
- Offer a greater variety of foods to reflect the diverse student population.
Turnaround success in action
2020 was when things really started turning around for The Freshie Tuckshop.
New convenor, Sara Begg came onboard and brought with her a high-energy, positive, can-do attitude…and big plans to make an impact.
Sara immediately got busy applying for every community grant she could get her hands on and was awarded $25,000 through the Gambling Community Benefit Fund. And with the directive to spend it within 12 months, the school P&C was happy to chip in a little extra to cover a full tuckshop makeover.
As a result, the tuckshop was transformed from an outdated space with yellow laminate benchtops and walls, to a stainless-steel wonderland.
Sara’s next move was to create a brand-new menu, which focused on healthy, nutritious meals that the kids actually wanted to eat. In fact, Sara prides herself on the “homestyle” and “homemade” feel of the menu and packs all her dishes full of veggies.
This eventually led to the creation of a vegetable garden and composting system, which is now used widely across the school. Students use special food waste bins for their food scraps, which are collected by the Grade 6 students, who manage the composting process. In addition, all tuckshop food waste goes into the compost as well.
The tuckshop also started providing afternoon tea to the OSHC, who pay for the service. The food is served straight out of the tuckshop, which the kids love.
A more recent introduction was a brand-new EFTPOS machine, which is already proving a hit with teachers and has increased sales exponentially.
Getting back in the black
All of these changes have led to a positive, profitable tuckshop. 95% of the food is cooked on site (with recipes sourced from the QAST website) and the profits are back in the black.
The changes have also highlighted that the students do tend to lean towards meals that are prepared on site. Sara’s homemade spaghetti bolognaise, loaded with veggies, is a firm favourite, and the tuckshop-made Caesar salad wrap a hit with the teachers and school staff.
Keys for success
Overall, Sara explained that it was three key things that really turned it around for The Freshie Tuckshop:
- Simplifying the menu and cooking things that kids will enjoy eating
- Fostering a happy and friendly culture with staff and building relationships within the school community
- Bringing some FUN into the tuckshop.
When we asked Sara what her words of advice for other convenors would be, she was happy to oblige.
“Build a relationship with QAST and become a member if you’re not already. This is a service that you absolutely get value for money with. When I first started in 2020 I had QAST on speed dial; they are all super helpful and friendly,” Sara said.
“Apply for every grant under the sun. If it’s overwhelming, ask for help from your P&C or office staff. It really is easy and once you have the money you have to spend it within 12-months so the focus automatically becomes about the tuckshop, which is a massive win in my eyes.”
“Attend courses and network meetings online and in-person. Once you get to know others who work in the same space as you, you will realise that you all share the same concerns and issues. Sharing this with others helps you feel like you’re not alone and you can make long-term friends.”
“Last, but not least, get involved with your school. Start conversations with your Principal and share your ideas. By doing this it will help bridge the gap and you may find that you’re often actually on the same page and can work together for the same outcome.”
Want to see improved results in your tuckshop?
QAST members can access a free Financial Advisory Service, which includes a phone discussion, Profit & Loss analysis, menu review and detailed report with suggestions for key areas for improvement.
Get in touch to get started.
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This case study was developed as part of the Healthier Tuckshops program funded by the Queensland Government through Health and Wellbeing Queensland.