High school students dream up restaurant menu items


BUFFALO — When you eat at your favorite fast-food restaurant, you might think of the menu items you’d create if given the opportunity to get in the restaurant’s kitchen.

And while most of us never get that chance, the students in Buffalo High School’s marketing class are living that dream at Dash Inn through the “Build A Burger” collaboration. 

Build A Burger came about after BHS marketing teacher Andrew Borgialli saw something similar in a business teachers’ Facebook group he uses to help find project ideas. And it was especially easy to convince the Dash Inn to get on board because the owners were looking for winter special ideas and because Borgialli works there a few days a week with the owners and close family friends, Chris and Paul Rickett. 

“I pitched the idea to Chris and Paul, and they wanted to get more involved with the school and just support Buffalo High School and we thought it sounds like a great partnership,” he said. “I’m all about practical and hands-on learning.” 

Junior Aidan Burke’s aptly named “Chicken Bacon Sandwich” — a chicken patty with bacon, barbecue sauce and swiss cheese — was the first in a line of sandwiches and burgers created by students that Dash Inn will feature over the next several weeks. 

“Dash Inn’s known for their chicken, … and a lot of customers prefer bacon on whatever their sandwich is, or burger,” Burke said. “So then I decided I would just combine the two together and add some barbecue sauce — ’cause why not? — and that’s how I got the sandwich.” 

It was also the winner of the Dash Inn staff vote for favorite sandwich. 

“It was pretty incredible because I didn’t expect to win,” Burke said. “I saw a lot of people with some very interesting ideas that I thought would’ve won.” 

Dash Inn originally planned to feature just the winning sandwich out of the eight or nine pitches received, according to Borgialli, but because the staff loved them all, the restaurant is rotating the sandwiches one per week.  

After pitching the idea, Borgialli said, his students spent eight or nine days of class time at the beginning of the semester — during their market research and promotion unit — researching the Dash Inn menu and customer demographics and learning how to effectively market their new products. 

Burke said this meant scouring Dash Inn’s Facebook page and Trip Advisor to study the menu and find customer reviews to see what people liked or what they thought could be improved with the restaurant’s current items. 

“I looked up … preferably people from out of state so that way they don’t have a bias toward Dash Inn,” he said. “So that way I could get some real answers and see what people preferred.” 

Using his research, Burke came up with the idea for his sandwich and made a short presentation for the staff at Dash Inn to view. The presentation included an illustration of his sandwich, the ingredients it would include, how he would market it and how it stands out from other menu items. 

Borgialli said each presentation was then viewed by the Dash Inn staff before they voted on their favorite. 

And now that the sandwich selling is underway, even the high school’s statistics class has gotten involved, Borgialli said, buying a couple of each week’s sandwich, doing taste testing and seeing how the sandwiches could be improved. 

“They determined the chicken bacon sandwich needed extra barbecue sauce,” he said. “And then the rest of the week, they (Dash Inn) added extra barbecue sauce.”

The work continues for the marketing students, too, as each week the class creates the flyers used to promote the new sandwich and sends an email to the staff at the high school encouraging them to go buy the sandwich to support the students. 

So far, Burke’s sandwich is the top seller, with 216 sold. Kael Kennedy and Jackson Moon’s “Chicken Fried Burger” sold 173 last week, and this week’s sandwich, the “Avocado Deluxe Burger,” created by Tatum Atwell, Bella Lungren and Grace Wagner, is on sale until Saturday. 

After the last sandwich is sold in a few weeks, Borgialli said, the marketing class will go back and see how each one performed and determine whether the students did a good job matching their products to a menu need. 

But, for now, the students are enjoying seeing their creations being sold in the community.

“When I went there with Mr. Borgialli, when he bought me lunch there, people were already recognizing me for a product I created,” Burke said. “To see people that actually enjoyed something I created, in an actual business, it was a pretty good feeling.”