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Getting Real at Breakfast


San Diego Unified School District, in San Diego, California


To jumpstart breakfast uptake at schools with low participation numbers in the San Diego Unified School District, the food services team introduced The Real Deal Breakfast Sandwich as a limited-time offer (LTO). It’s called The Real Deal because it’s made with just four real ingredients, not substitutes. The sandwich, made from scratch in the schools, contains scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon (ham) and American cheese on an English muffin.

In the pilot launch during the end of SY19, The Real Deal Breakfast Sandwich was added to school menus without much promotion—only point-of-purchase posters, emphasizing its real ingredients, and stickers on the sandwich wrappers that encouraged students to “tell a friend” about them. “Since we want to promote participation, we came up with a functional sticker with a call to action,” explains Chef Juan Zamorano, food services program specialist in the district. “Kids have to open the sandwich, but before they can get to their tasty sandwich, they will be reminded to tell a friend [about it.]”

Despite not having a full-blown marketing effort behind the sandwich, sales gained traction through word of mouth. “We wanted to see what reaction we would get back from students when we served them a fresh, homemade, straight-forward breakfast sandwich,” says Zamorano. “I believe the students appreciate the fact this is an honest product. It’s just made with simple ingredients, English muffin, ham, egg and cheese.”

Chef Zamorano says there’s another benefit beyond students telling them how much they enjoy the new sandwiches. “Our cooks feel good about actually cooking real food for their students, and they get more satisfaction from their jobs than [when] just re-thermalizing food.” The Real Deal is prepared in a combi oven, using liquid eggs cooked in a multibaker mold. Since the pilot went so well this spring, there are plans to expand it within the district in the upcoming school year. San Diego Unified is the second largest district in California, with more than 121,000 students in preschool through grade 12.