Along with the daily assortment of dishes that flow from the kitchen at Monett High School in Monett, Mo., wedding cakes, cupcakes for baby showers and more also make their way out the door.
The sweets come from the district’s catering program, which is entering its third year in operation this fall. The program is managed by a former nutrition employee turned catering manager, who started to provide baked goods for faculty on a whim.
“She stepped in and started messing with some things and making a few things, and it just snowballed from there,” says Monett R-1 School District Food Service Director Ralph Meredith.
Today, the team’s catering business has grown into a full-fledged program that is on its way to turning a profit for the department.
From humble beginnings
Monett’s catering program began as a small initiative in fall 2021, when the nutrition team started selling cupcakes to faculty members.
“If somebody wanted to order some cupcakes, we’d charge them $5 or $6,” says Meredith. “We probably did a couple thousand dollars for the year.”
The treats were well received, and the following year, the team invested in a donut maker and a sugar printer to take its catering menu to the next level.
Along with cupcakes, it now offers donuts, cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and pies. As its offerings have expanded, so has the team’s clientele.
“We had a few companies in our community who had a spouse working for the school,” says Meredith “So we had some outside companies and banks and things like that start ordering last year.”
The team now caters a variety of events, including baby showers, retirement parties and even weddings. Most of their orders come from principals and other faculty members who purchase baked goods from the team instead of ordering outside the district.
One reason Meredith believes the program has been successful is because he keeps prices competitive.
“I price it to where it covers the cost to make it, the product in it and my labor,” he says. “I might make a few pennies and that will just roll over into something else.”
Already exceeding expectations
Last year, the program turned enough of a profit to cover 50% of the catering manager’s salary, and enough orders have already been placed this school year to surpass last year’s profit.
Meredith hopes that by the end of the current year, he will have raised enough to cover all of the program’s costs and have some funds leftover to invest into the department as a whole.
“This year, the goal [is] to cover completely [the catering manager’s] salary, cover completely the catering costs, and then whatever supersedes that, put it back into nutrition,” he says.