Lunch Rush: Serving 400 Students BBQ Lunch in 30 Minutes

You think you have to deal with a lunch rush?

School foodservice operators have the unenviable task of serving hundreds of students every day in a limited time-frame in locations and kitchens usually not built to support the growing student population. With that in mind, you might assume that BBQ offerings would not even be on the radar for school operators but the Sacramento City Unified Public School District does exactly that, serving 300 to 400 students fresh BBQ each day in less than 30 minutes.

Diana Flores is the Nutrition Supervisor IV for Sacramento City Unified Public School District and along with “determination, a talented staff and the right equipment,” she details for us the steps she took to implement this offering at her high schools.

Process to Implement the BBQ

Right off the bat, being in California, Diana knew students like to be outside during nice weather and BBQ is the ideal outside food.

Set a concise menu

The menu was set as marinated chicken thighs, hot dogs, tacos, burritos and hamburgers with all the fixings.

Sacramento Schools - BBQ Cart - Cambro BlogPreparation is Key

To ensure they would be able to feed the rush of students in the small amount of time available, the foodservice staff pre-baked all the food in the main kitchen. The items were loaded into pans, covered and placed in a Cambro UPC800 insulated cart. Shortly before the first lunch period, they wheel the Cambro insulated cart outside next to the grill where all the items are marked off to give it that additional flavor.

Set Up

Students punch in their number and then go down 2 sides of tables to select from a variety of fruit choices, milk, juice, and pre-portioned condiments like lettuce, jalapenos and pickles. Student are asked for their bun and meat selection and then directed to the side for BBQ sauce, Mustard and Ketchup.


Although California is going through its worst drought in 1,200 years we still get rain on the rare occasion…but that doesn’t stop Diane’s team. They move the set-up under an overhang and students wait in the rain for their BBQ because the food is just that good.


“Since the implementation of the BBQ we have seen an increase of 141 meals per day, that’s 25,380 meals per year. BBQ food - Cambro BlogWe also saw an increase in the main cafeteria since the BBQ is offered right outside the main cafeteria. The smell of the BBQ would entice the students to stop and they would then check out the menu in the main cafeteria as well.” said Diana Flores.

Maybe an outdoor BBQ isn’t an option at your school but offering hot reimbursable meals outside your main cafeteria can be a great opportunity to increase your participation. When discussing the addition of a grab-n-go solution in your district make sure to consider the benefits of an insulated cart that can hold food at safe temperatures for 4 or more hours. Cambro insulated carts are great for replenishing grab-n-go set-ups, breakfast in the classroom, transporting from a central kitchen to multiple locations and much more.

Click here to learn about the various Cambro insulated transport units available or contact a Cambro rep for more school foodservice solutions.

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