We’re looking at significant findings on the increasing number of schools implementing pre-ordering software for school meals and what this means for education catering.

Technology and how pupils order school meals have significantly evolved in the last decade. The past ten years saw a rapid increase in new technologies added to the dining hall to simplify how pupils order, pay for and enjoy school meals. These systems have transformed how we deliver school meals, from pre-order meal apps to facial recognition technology, and have continued increasing in popularity within UK schools since the pandemic.

The impact of COVID-19 on school meal pre-ordering

In early 2020, with COVID-19 slowly creeping into the UK, many schools were utilising our pre-order meal app, Fusion Online, to enable pupils to order and pay for school meals in advance, ready to collect at lunchtime. In January 2020, over 1,000 orders were made using the pre-order app.


Flash forward to January 2021, and over 8,000 orders had been processed through Fusion Online in UK schools, a significant increase from the same month of the previous year. This drastic shift highlights how quickly schools adapted and successfully implemented pre-ordering software to respond to the pandemic and changes to school catering.

Conquering education catering challenges using technology

In early 2021, Footprint Intelligence published a report titled Sustainable Success in the New Normal, with findings from UK education professionals on how to conquer challenges in the education catering industry during and after COVID-19, including embracing technology and innovation. According to the report, 46% of respondents said COVID-19 enabled them to fast-track technology, while 41% said that pre-ordering systems helped reduce waste and increase efficiency.

Whilst many schools planned to implement these pre-order solutions in upcoming years, COVID-19 sped up this process, resulting in hundreds of schools fast-tracking the implementation of pre-ordering software, which is continuing to the present day.


If the pandemic taught us anything, we should adapt and find new, innovative ways to ensure vital education catering work continues in the face of challenges. Since gathering these findings, pre-ordering technology has continued to rise in popularity.

To better understand how schools use Fusion Online, we gathered data from secondary schools utilising the pre-order app since 2020, with interesting results. By the end of 2020, over 564,000 pupils had used the app. However, whilst these numbers significantly increased in 2020 during the height of the pandemic, they have continued to grow.

By 2021, with new data from our customers, we found that orders made through the Fusion Online pre-order app were at an all-time high, with 1.8 million orders processed through the app and a total of over 622,000 users by the end of the year, a 10% increase from 2020. These figures show a significant demand for flexible and innovative pre-ordering solutions to help establishments adapt and beg the question; have school meal ordering methods changed for good?

The ability for schools to quickly and efficiently implement pre-order solutions paves the way for future innovations. Whilst we would not wish for more lockdowns, the pandemic showed us that when faced with unprecedented challenges, the industry can adapt and look for new ways to deliver its vital service, with these innovations becoming a crucial part of the school lunch experience.

To learn more about pre-ordering solutions for UK schools, get in touch to arrange a demonstration.