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4 Foodservice Equipment Options to Enhance College Foodservice

College and university campuses are big places that require a whole range of different foodservice options.

From students who are on-to-go and short on time to alumni functions that can be so important to fundraising, the ability to provide foodservice to a variety of people in a number of diverse ways can help a college or university stand out. Service isn't always easy, though, and sometimes requires some innovative service solutions.

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Rethinking Counter Space in College Foodservice Dining

Are you maximizing the point-of-sale potential in your college and university dining facilities?

This is the question all foodservice directors should consider, as the point-of-sale is the ideal place to help drive impulse purchases and drive sales. But how? Whether it's a cafeteria serving line or a pop-up location created to attract those students who don't have a lot of time on their way across campus, there are a few important things to consider when optimizing the point-of-sale.


Appearances matter. Though flavor is ultimately the most important factor, it's hard to impress students with flavor unless they're selecting your foods in the first place. The easiest way to do this is to remember we first eat with our eyes.

When you spruce up your countertop and serving lines with décor, seasonal ambiance, or attractive displays, students will be more apt to buy. Try to highlight concepts like freshness and cleanliness.

Lighting can play a big role, as well. When you use high-quality lights like LED overhead lighting, food colors will look sharper when compared to lighting that is muted and dull. And remember, we live in the world of #Instafood. Amongst today's demographics, this isn't just reserved for fine dining.


Signs can serve multiple purposes. First and foremost, they provide direction. Where does the line begin? Where do I pay? What are they serving in this kiosk? These are all basic questions that students ask, and with signs, they can be answered from across the room allowing students to focus on the real decisions -- menu selection -- once they're in closer proximity.

Signs also create ambiance. More and more, college and university dining is going away from the stereotypical cafeteria line. Where are the trends heading? Food courts, food halls, and anything that can help make a location look like a restaurant. That's what signs can help achieve.


Lastly, don't forget about the power of merchandising on your countertops and pop-up, kiosk-type spaces. Think about how foods are arranged. Make sure they're organized and not overcrowded, but still maintaining the appearance of abundance that's so important in food displays. The neater and more organized, the easier it will be for time-strapped students to find what they're looking for, and even not what they're looking for.

When it comes to merchandising, don't forget the beverages, either. Beverage displays or dispensers can either lead to add-on purchases, or they can be the reason for the visit in the first place. Either way, beverages are an important part in the overall merchandising strategy.

Looking for more information on how to maximize the potential of your college and university pop-up dining spaces? Lakeside can provide great insight into some other things to consider, as well as some equipment options that can help put them in action.


Check out the Lakeside college and university foodservice guide...

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One Key Factor to Successful College Dining Programs

To understand what makes a college and university dining program successful, we should probably take a quick visit to a college campus.

Specifically, let's go to Princeton University, where two psychologists conducted an experiment with the students in the seminary school. Essentially, they were trying to determine what motivates people, what are the driving forces behind our actions, and why we choose one option over another.

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4 Factors Impacting College Foodservice

4 Factors Impacting College Foodservice

More than just about any other industry, foodservice can change in a short amount of time.

College and university foodservice operations are no different. Like restaurants, hospitality, and other types of foodservice, college campuses are prone to trends, shifts in demographics, and all the other factors that impact our industry.

So what are these influences that are changing the landscape of college and university foodservice? What do directors need to consider to stay ahead of these changes? And, ultimately, what can programs do to keep students on campus for dinner? Let's take a quick look at a few ideas:


As we've already detailed, demographics are changing on college campuses. With a more diverse student body population stemming from a more diverse nation, in addition to the numbers of international students many colleges and universities host, menus need to reflect the demographics of those they serve. Use a campus census to help understand where your students are coming from and what they prefer to eat.

Beyond ethnic preferences, directors also need to consider health challenges. With the rise of food allergies and food-related diseases like Celiac, it's important for foodservice operators to provide ingredient-sensitive options for the population of students who cannot eat certain foods. Gluten free, nut free, dairy free, and dietary restrictions aren't just a matter of preference. They can actually be a matter of well being.


It's becoming harder and harder to find, train, and retain great employees in the foodservice industry. The same can be said for our college cafeterias and dining halls. Sure, there's always a pool of college students looking to pay tuition or to just find some extra spending money, but in many cases, those students can make more by working in the restaurant across the street.

Technology will also play a huge role in accommodating these challenges. From online ordering and delivery to digital touch screen menus on site, the use of technology and automated kitchens are helping operators deal with many of the labor challenges they face.


Today's student populations are more connected to their food supplies than ever before. They care about where foods come from, how they are grown or raised, and what their impacts are to the environment as a whole. Health is a key word when it comes to today's student diners, but health can be taken in different contexts. Health means eating healthier foods such as a more vegetarian-focused diet, as well as environmental health in reducing the impacts dining can have.


There's an oversimplified way to look at college and university foodservice, but it's true. The more a university invests in its foodservice delivery, the better that service will be. At the same time, there's a huge challenge in keeping foods affordable.

General convictions say a college should keep foods as low-cost as possible in order to accommodate student populations, but because of some of the menu preferences and requirements listed above, operations are not always as low-cost as they used to be. One way to combat this is to provide levels of service that speak to not just every type of student, but also to the locations and timing those students may or may not have when eating. That's why it's important to utilize other profit centers like on-campus convenience stores or grab-n-go kiosks.


Check out the Lakeside college and university foodservice guide...

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How Demographics Are Impacting College and University Foodservice

Gone are the days of a college cafeteria expecting to attract students just because it's located on campus.

Today, college students are smarter and savvier about their culinary preferences, and it's causing university foodservice operators to change their game in order to keep kids on campus instead of crossing the street for something better.

But what does "better" mean, and how is it driven by demographics?

For starters, it's all focused on Gen Z, the largest demographic segment in the history of mankind. Based on Bloomberg analysis of United Nations data, Generation Z will comprise roughly one-third of the entire global population this year, edging out Millennials as the largest demographic for the first time.

Depending on which source your reference, a quick scan of the internet shows the following Gen Z character traits:

  • * Less use of television
  • * More focused on products versus experiences
  • * Entrepreneurial and competitive
  • * Motivated by security
  • * Digital natives being they've grown up with connectivity
  • * Diverse and multicultural

So based on just a cursory review of Gen Z, it's likes and dislikes, and it's general characteristics, how can they translate to college and university foodservice? How are they changing menus and service delivery? What flavor profiles are hot?

Let's take a look.


If Gen Z is the most diverse and multicultural generation in our nation's history, it goes without saying our college cafeterias should reflect that. Add on the fact that college and university campuses are often filled with international students and faculty, and there's an even bigger reason for on-campus dining facilities to include ethnic and multi-cultural menu options. Flavor trends will certainly change from year to year, but the fact they're becoming more diverse will not.


Gen Z is eating healthier for themselves and for the world at large. They're looking for better ways to engage in sustainable practices, and food choices are a large part of those efforts. From salad bars to meatless burgers, college and university foodservice directors enjoy a growing list of products and ingredients that make meat-free meals easier to provide.


Yes, we just mentioned sustainability to some degree by mentioning plant-based meals, and yes we've already talked about sustainability on college and university campuses in a previous blog, but we cannot overstate how important sustainable practices are to Generation Z. From fresh and local sourcing to sustainable seafood and antibiotic free proteins, this generation cares about clean, sustainable food more than any in history.


Though some say Gen Z is more concerned with a quality product than a quality experience, when it comes to dining, experiences really do matter. Eating isn't just a chance to get full or find nourishment, it's a place to unwind, to socialize, and to find a sense of community that can often be so difficult for those who are new to campus.

"There's school or work and there's home, but how do you create this kind of third-place getaway?" asks Costel Coca, a design principal at Anaheim-based Webb Foodservice Design in an article in Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazine. "That's what companies like Starbucks have done so effectively, and that's where much of college and university dining is headed," he says. "When we start thinking about kitchens and foodservice, we're now starting with the experience and the story we want to tell in the facility before getting to its functional aspects. It's about a couple of key factors. One is a desire to create a neighborhood vibe, and that's being done, in part, via micro restaurants. We're designing restaurants more than we are food stations, and there's a heightened focus on the aesthetic value of the facility."


Generation Z is one of digital natives, essentially meaning they were raised with smartphones from the very beginning. They've been "connected" their entire lives. With this level of technology-usage comes an expectation that technology should make our lives easier, and this mentality extends to foodservice. From mobile ordering to convenient pick-up, the next generations expect technology to play a major role in how we eat.


In this article, we talked a lot about college and university foodservice trends. In reality, these trends extend not across college campuses but across all areas of foodservice. Though the applications are different, each and every characteristic we listed above is relevant in restaurants, in senior care communities, in corporate dining rooms, etc.

Get the rest of the trends in our free 2019 Foodservice Trends Guide.

2019 Foodservice Trends Report CTA

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4 Ways to Make Your College Foodservice Program More Sustainable

4 Ways to Make Your College Foodservice Program More Sustainable

Sustainability is not only popular amongst today's college-aged students, it's also an easy way to save money.

Though it might seem more complicated than it really is, the bottom line is the less we waste, the more we save. That goes for our reputations as well as our wallets.

More than ever, younger demographics of students are interested in foodservice that is not just good for their bodies. They're looking for foodservice that's good for the environment, as well. As many have said, a trip across campus at your old alma mater may look someone that same on the outside, but when you step into the student union dining hall, it probably looks totally different.

Today, colleges and universities have a wide range of foodservice delivery components, and combined, those individual units all have processes that can use to help the overall foodservice program become more sustainable.

Here are a few things to consider with college and university foodservice sustainability:


Food waste is by far one of the most important foodservice trends of 2019. As Americans, we waste roughly 40 percent of our entire food supply, and this is no different on our college campuses. Leading the way on many of these initiatives are the students. From food bank organizations to on-campus research on how to make better use of food waste so it's not always wasted, this is the first place to start with college foodservice sustainability.


Another easy way to increase sustainability is to decrease the distances required for food to travel. Trucking and shipping not only add an additional layer of cost to ingredients, but it also adds carbon to our atmosphere. More than ever in the history of college and university foodservice, operators are sourcing ingredients closer to campus, and in some cases, ingredients are actually grown or raised on campus.


Foods that are grown sustainably can be organic and are almost always antibiotic-free, hormone-free, and pesticide-free. Are there additional costs associated with better, cleaner ingredients? Of course. But these demands are driven by the students, and there are ways to compensate.

"You serve a 2.5-ounce rather than a 3-ounce burger when your antibiotic-free beef is raised on a ranch with sustainable practices," says Shawn LaPean, executive director of dining at Yale University.


The fourth main component to sustainability involves the amounts of utilities it takes to complete a service. From water and gas to electricity and refrigerant, how much you use impacts the world as well as the wallet.

Foodservice is one of the largest consumers of energy over any other type of operation, and that's why foodservice equipment and supplies are so critical in reducing usage levels of our valuable resources. From on-demand ventilation to energy-efficient blenders, a serious examination of the equipment used in a college or university kitchen can help reduce money spent on utility bills.

Sustainability is an important college and university foodservice trend. Would you like to learn about more relevant trends?

Download our free 2019 Foodservice Trends Guide to see the other trends impacting our industry.

2019 Foodservice Trends Report CTA

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Does Your College or University Foodservice Program Include These Six Components?

Does Your College or University Foodservice Program Include These Six Components?

In order for college and university foodservice programs to succeed, they should consider seven important components.

After all, college students have enough to stress about as it is. Finding a high-quality, convenient place to eat should be the least of their concerns. Chewing on pencils just isn't going to cut it.

In terms of foodservice, it's critical for college and university directors to consider the actual needs of the students, including where, when, what, and how much time a student might have. Essentially, putting themselves in the shoes of the students they serve.

According to the National Association of College and University Food Services, this translates to seven different components in a campus foodservice operation. Let's briefly go through each of them here:


Dining halls are the standard bearer when it comes to eating in college. Typically, they include several serving counters, are organized in buffet options, and provided a variety of choices to hungry diners. But whether you're serving Jim Belushi at Faber College or a current student at your local state school, the dining hall is critical as a place for choice and as a gathering spot.


Speaking of choice, a food court is the evolution of the dining hall concept. They are similar because they offer choice and variety, typically in a tray-service type environment. They are different, though, typically in terms of branding and name identity. While a dining hall is often branding singularly as a university foodservice operation, a food court might contain popular fast casual chains or at the very least have food options displayed in a more branded fashion.


Think of a marketplace as the retail option where students can go on campus. Typically, these will include foods to be prepared in the dorm room kitchen, but they don't have to be just prepare-at-home foods. Like grocery stores off-campus, prepared foods have a place in campus marketplaces, as well.


Express-type options are typically kiosk, grab-n-go locations that eliminate traditional point-of-sale barriers. Designed for students who are literally running to catch their next class across campus. They're designed with time in mind.


More than any other type of foodservice component on this list, coffee shops and juice bars exist for academic purposes. Essentially, they're like on-campus libraries with a more vibrant atmosphere, and with food and beverage options. Like express units, they're designed with time in mind but for the exact opposite reasons. Aside from the quick cup of joe, students in coffee shops typically have time.


It's parents weekend. Students want to take their moms and dads out for a nice sit-down restaurant. Why should they have to leave campus? The answer is, they shouldn't. A sit down, full-service restaurant provides students with a nice place to take their parents, where faculty can take visiting guests for lunch, and were students can splurge when they have the tie and money.


Last but not least, we have the on-campus c-store. Typically smaller than a campus marketplace but larger than express units, the convenience store as a quick place -- nearby -- that provides students with all the basics, including limited prepared food options.

Does your college or university foodservice program offer all seven of these components?

Providing such a wide range of service greatly enhances the probability that students will stay on campus and participate in a campus foodservice program. The goal is to provide food options that are convenient in terms of location, menu options, and time.

Because these options are so different in terms of their delivery methods -- from grab-n-go merchandisers to buffet serving lines and pretty much everything in between -- the equipment required to make them successful is also different.


Check out the Lakeside college and university foodservice guide...