Adding a seasonal meal (e.g. Christmas lunch)

There are a couple of options to manage payments and booking for a seasonal meal using our Meals or Trips functionality, depending on your needs and what your school has purchased. 


  • Extra Curricular: Administer - Set up the Christmas meal as a trip
  • Meals: Administer All Students - Set up the Christmas meal as a meal provision (you must also have the permission below to set up prices)
  • Finance: Administer - Set a price for the meal provision and manage payments for meals or trips

If you don't have permission, you'll need to ask your admin team to give you permission using these instructions.


We use Rotating Meal Menus

Before setting this up, please note that:

  • Although Meal menus require you to set up for a whole week, it’s the availability dates that control how long the menu is available for.
  • You cannot do Meal menus for one day. You can either select the day before and the day of, or the day of and the day after. If you would like us to improve this feature, please add your feedback here: Meals Improvements

First, make sure you've added provisions and prices for your seasonal meal.

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Next in the Meal Menus section of the Setup, adjust the end date for the current Meal Menu to the day before your seasonal meal menu should start.

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Add new Meal Menu for the seasonal meal, and set the date range.

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Add new Meal Menu for the day after your seasonal meal menu to return to normal meals.

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Top Tip: Copy and paste using Ctrl + C/V (Windows) or Cmd + C/V (Mac) from your old Meal Menu in one window to the new Meal menu in the other.

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We use Standard Meals

  • Meal provisions are best if you would like teachers to be able to record the students' meal choices on the day
  • Trips are best if you want parents to be able to book and/or pay for the meal through the Parent Portal or Parent App




Using a Meal provision
  • Parents top up their child's account in advance through the Parent Portal or Parent App
  • The cost is automatically deducted from their balance at the end of the meal sitting
  • Staff can have a meal logged
  • You may need to manually set students as absent or having a different lunch option on the day of the meal
  • Parents can't book a specific meal through the Parent Portal or Parent App in advance
  • You can't track the number of students having the meal until the day of the meal
  • Once you set up the meal provision, it will be available to select in Meal Registers until the end of the year.
Using Trips
  • Parents can book their child in for the meal in advance
  • Parents can pay for the meal through the Parent Portal or Parent App
  • Teachers will need to mark students as not having a meal in Meal Registers on the day of the meal to prevent students from being charged twice
  • If a student doesn't attend you will need to manually refund the meal through the trip area
  • If a student chooses to have a different meal than the one they have paid for you may need to manage refunds and change the meal choice in the registers
  • Payments will not be deducted from student's meals account and payments will be paid out to the account linked to trips (but you can set an accounting code)
  • Staff cannot have a meal logged


Setting it up as a meal

If you want to take payments through Arbor for meals, you must already have card payments enabled on your site (go to School > Payments > Initial Setup to check all the steps are ticked).

You must also have set up your Lunch meal as standard - click here to see how to set it up to make sure your teachers are able to take Meal Registers. This means you will already have meal sittings (what time the meal will take place), added the attendees (what student groups attend each sitting) or meal choices so they will appear in the meal registers, so you won't need to do this again! 

Step 1 - Setting up your meal provision

To set up your seasonal meal, go to School > Meals and select Setup from the left-hand menu.

To add a seasonal meal we'll be adding a new Provision to the existing Lunch meal, so click Provisions.



Click the Add Provision button.



Add the meal name and the meal type, then click Add Provision.



You'll be taken to the Provision overview, where you can add pricing details.


Step 2 - Adding meal prices

Please note, if you can't complete these actions, you may not have the necessary permissions (the Finance: Administer permission). Please contact your Admin staff to help with this.


In this step, you can add a price for a specific meal to set the dates this meal choice will generate invoices for. For instance, if your Christmas lunch is charged at a different rate to your other meals, and only on one day of the year, set the applicable dates as the day the meal takes place on.

Enter a price by clicking '+Add' in the prices' table. This will mean that students and staff can be automatically charged for the food taken. Make sure you set the dates to reflect the dates the meal actually runs on.



Add the meal price for each user group, then click Set Price & Add Another.




Once you've added all the prices for your different groups, your page will look something like the screenshot below.



If you need to edit the price or dates and the seasonal meal begins in the future, you won't be able to edit it as it is not Active. You'll need to delete it by clicking the red button, then add a new one.


Step 3 - Adding students

Please note: It is not possible to pre-book meals through the Parent Portal, or to add students to a meal on future dates as the meal register is generated on the day. Therefore, you must wait until the day of the meal to input meal choices.

On the day of the meal, you or your teachers can open the morning registration register (you can see how to get there here for teachers or here for admins). Go to the Meal Choices option on the left-hand side.

You'll be able to select which students are taking the seasonal meal provision for the day individually, or by using the bulk actions on the left-hand side.

If you use payments in Arbor and there is an active price, the students who have been put down as taking the seasonal meal option will be invoiced. The price of the meal is taken away from their Meals account balance at the end of the meal.



Need to issue a refund? Take a look at this article.


Setting it up as a trip

Step 1 - Add your trip

Go to School > Activities > Trips. This will bring you to the Trips overview page. From here you can view the trips you have already created in school and set up new trips here as well.

Click +Add to create a new trip and select whether your Christmas meal is free for all students or whether parents may have to pay for their child to have the meal.



You can then choose the name, location and when the meal will take place. If all students can have the meal you can add them here - you can add different process for different student groups later.



If you allow parents to sign up to this through the Parent Portal, this will determine when parents will be able to see it, sign up and pay.


Step 2 - Add your prices

Next, you will need to create prices that can be booked. If the meal is free you won't need to add a price. Click +Add in this section.



When adding the prices, set up a price for FSM students, and a price for other students. Then choose whether parents will be able to pay any amount they like and whether they can pay in instalments (please note that the minimum payment allowed for trips is £1).


Signing a child up on your side

Go to School > Activities > Trips and select the meal.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click into the Eligible tab to see students who have not yet been confirmed as attending the meal.

Tick the box next to the student's meal and click Confirm Participants to sign them up pending later payment, or Add Payment to log a payment.



Add in the payment method (cash, cheque or bank transfer - card payments can only be made through the Parent Portal or Parent App) and the amount paid, then log the payment.



The student will then move to the Confirmed tab.


How guardians can sign up their children

Parents will be able to sign up for the meal using the Parent Portal or Parent App until the Signup Closes date and time. They will need to click into the Trips section. and select the upcoming meal.




If they need to pay for the meal, they can click the green button and add the payment to the basket or pay.




If they need don't need to pay for the meal, they can click the green button to sign the child up for the meal. 


On the day of the meal

On the day of the meal, make sure teachers set the students in the Meals Register as absent so they are not charged twice.


Need to issue a refund and/or cancel participation? Take a look at this article.

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