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

But what does "better" mean, and how do demographics drive it?

For starters, it's all focused on Generation Z, the largest demographic segment in the history of humankind. Based on Bloomberg analysis of United Nations data, Gen 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, having grown up with connectivity
  • Diverse and multicultural

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

Let's take a look.


If you're interested in the trends that will impact your foodservice program the most this year, download our e-report today!

 


ETHNIC FOODS

If Gen Z is the most diverse and multicultural generation in our nation's history, it goes without saying our college dining halls should reflect that. Additionally, college and university campuses are often filled with international students and faculty, giving on-campus dining facilities a greater reason 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.

PLANT-BASED FOODS

Gen Z is eating healthier for themselves and 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 it easier to provide meat-free meals.

SUSTAINABILITY

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.

A SENSE OF COMMUNITY

Though some say Gen Z is more concerned with a quality product than a quality experience, when it comes to dining, experiences still matter. Eating isn't just about feeling full or finding nourishment; it's about finding a place to unwind, to socialize, and having a sense of community, an important aspect of college life that can often be so difficult to find 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."

TECHNOLOGY

Generation Z is one of the 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 they eat.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.

Demographics is just one of many factors that's already impacting college and university foodservice.  Be sure to download your copy of our e-report that lists the top trends you can expect in the 2019-2020 school year.

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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.

Sustainability is often seen as being more complicated than it really is.  Bottom line, 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's not just good for their bodies. They're looking for foodservice that's good for the environment as well. A trip across campus at your old alma mater may look the same in some ways, but step into the student union dining hall and it might look totally different.

Today, colleges and universities have a wide range of foodservice delivery components. When properly combined, they can produce a process that helps create a more sustainable foodservice program.

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

FOOD WASTE

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. Students are leading the way on many of these initiatives. Some prime areas to begin exploring college foodservice sustainability are food bank organizations and on-campus research on how to better use foods and ingredients. Check out these food waste reduction resources from the Environmental Protection Agency for more ideas.

TRANSPORTATION & DISTRIBUTION

Another easy way to increase sustainability is to decrease the distances to deliver food. Trucking and shipping not only add a layer of cost to ingredients, but they also add 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 grown or raised on campus.

CLEAN INGREDIENTS

Foods grown sustainably are often organic which means they're almost always antibiotic-free, hormone-free, and pesticide-free. Are there additional costs associated with better, cleaner ingredients? Of course, but students are driving these demands and they're also willing to pay the difference when they know they're helping contribute to sustainable efforts.

When using sustainable ingredients, consider a tradeoff in portion sizes too. "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 Cal Dining at the University of California, Berkeley.

UTILITIES & FACILITIES

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, the quantities you use impact the world as well as your 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 utility bills. There are many other ideas like these detailed in an article in Community College Daily.

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.

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Does Your College or University Foodservice Program Include These 7 Components?

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

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

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 John 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.

FOOD COURTS

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.

MARKETPLACES

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 UNITS

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

COFFEE SHOPS AND JUICE BARS

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.

SIT DOWN RESTAURANTS

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.

CONVENIENCE STORES

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.

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

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5 Things to Consider When Converting Underutilized Space into a Retail Dining Concept

With the foodservice giants having raised the standard of an exceptional café experience, you may be considering incorporating a “café” type concept in an underutilized space such as a lobby or corner area of your facility to generate revenue away from your current foodservice operation.

"You only get one chance to make a first impression."

This adage also resonates to life in the foodservice realm. With countless cafés, restaurants and fast food establishments aplenty, the consumer is inundated with deciding where to eat, drink and spend their money. Enticing the attention and business of today’s consumer can be captured with a little ingenuity that creates a unique one-of-a-kind “experience.”

With the foodservice giants having raised the standard of an exceptional café experience, you may be considering incorporating a “café” type concept in an underutilized space such as a lobby or corner area of your facility to generate revenue away from your current foodservice operation.

  1. Location– Determine the best location for your “café concept”; a lobby may be the perfect location or consider a space that's currently away from your cafeteria where there's existing foot traffic and may be a viable location to set up. Study traffic patterns, get feedback from students and visitors, do your research before moving to the next step.
  2. Decide on Space Requirements – Careful research and consideration should be taken when designing your space. Define your long-term goals and have a clear idea on how you will best utilize the space. Go on a research expedition and visit local eateries to view equipment, traffic flow, and aesthetics. This will greatly help in the design phase.
  3. Equipment – Consider self-contained mobile retail equipment concepts that fit the space and offer flexibility in terms of the ability to easily move the counters to another location if the particular location selected isn’t profitable. Also, think about using equipment that provides flexibility such as a basic open kiosk platform or larger size configuration made up of several counters. It's important to select equipment based on capacity, labor, anticipated maintenance costs of operating the space and initial cost of the equipment.
  4. Menu selection will drive “the customer experience” and researching your options prior to the design phase is key. It's important to remember that the menu creates an “image” of your establishment and needs to be an extension of the design you're trying to portray. Menu planning to meet current trends and food prep required will drive the menu. Will you be serving prepackaged prepared items or will you be implementing a menu made-to-order style concept such as paninis, made-to-order sandwiches, noodle bars, specialty coffee and snacks, etc.?
  5. Merchandising/Signage – Because a dining experience is more than great food, food display and merchandising can drive revenue and participation. Creative merchandising can capture missed sales opportunities, maximize profitability and increase customer satisfaction and repeat business. There are 4 key elements to successful merchandising; by incorporating these into your retail dining operation you can enhance your foodservice operation and ultimately increase sales.

By making a concerted effort in the research phase, you will be able to effectively implement a successful revenue generating stream in an underutilized area that will compliment your retail dining program.

For a 30 minute consultation with a Multiteria representative who can walk you through the design and implementation steps to provide food and beverage service in a remote area, contact us today!

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Limited Budget?  5 Ideas for the Outdated Cafeteria

When you have a tight or non-existent budget, here are five ways you can renovate an outdated cafeteria.

School districts participating in the National School Lunch Program ( serve healthy meals to a staggering 31 million children daily.  But many schools lack adequate infrastructure and up-to-date foodservice equipment.  With ever changing regulations that alter school foodservice programs, along with growing student populations, managing a program with outdated equipment adds another level of challenges.

Schools have a growing list of daily issues to contend with besides outdated equipment; labor shortages, space restrictions, limited storage for the increase in fresh fruits and vegetables, plus a decrease in allotted time for lunch to name a few.  Often these concerns take center stage.  Combine this with tight or non-existent budgets, what is a foodservice operator to do?

Here are 5 options to consider:

1.) “One-by-One” Replacements – Instead of doing a full renovation, one option is to replace outdated counters or sections of counters one-by-one with flexible counters. This approach enables you to begin the renovation process with one-off replacements which may be more attainable and cost-effective for you to serve a growing student population. It also spreads out the transition over several years with smaller and more frequent equipment purchases.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a practical solution. My school has an outdated serving line that’s “one” continuous piece. What can I do?

2.) Think Vertical – When you have space limitations as well as increased student populations and limited lunch time to serve students in 10-15 minutes, go vertical. If you’re operating a 30+ year old cafeteria, you may not be able to retrofit your serving line. So if budget allows, consider purchasing a heated and/or refrigerated visual merchandising display case for pre-made grab-and-go menu options. This will allow you to serve more fast-access items in one location, reorganize overcrowded counter space and alleviate serving line congestion by having students quickly make meal selections. Artfully displaying menu selections also raises visibility which could potentially serve more students.

This solution doesn’t work for me due to a lack of counter space and a lack of electrical supply required to plug in a display case. Is there another option?

3.) Pop-up Portable Retail Counters – These types of mobile counters can provide an additional revenue-generating stream in underutilized spaces. As “extended or additional lunch lines,” they offer the advantage of being moved anywhere within a cafeteria or even to open areas outside of a cafeteria such as lobbies or hallways. This can also expand your service to provide self-serve grab-and-go prepacked reimbursable meals, a la carte menus or afterschool smart snacks away from your existing serving line. Positive impacts include capturing or increasing participation and serving more students in a limited timeframe. Pop-up portable retail counters can be an affordable option when budgets don’t allow for a full renovation or one-by-one counter replacements.

I don’t have the staff required to operate this concept. I also lack the budget to purchase another piece of equipment. Is there another option to consider?

4) Merchandising – Merchandising can breathe new life into your existing space and give a facelift to an existing serving line. With limited budgets, consider new vinyl wraps for your existing counter fronts. This can provide a low-cost solution to refreshing tired and outdated counters. A quick Google search can provide you a list of several local companies that can assist you with this method. For décor, select a few collections of colorful eye-catching merchandising props to enhance aesthetic appeal and functionality. Also, adding signage to help identify menus and food stations can successfully increase participation. Incorporating the 4 visual keys to merchandising is an inexpensive yet impactful way to add a “wow factor” to your existing space.

I just don’t have any funds, but I really need to find a way to speed up the service. Is there a “no cost” option?

5) Reorganize Your Serving Line – For little to no cost, reorganizing your serving line can improve functionality and temporarily fix traffic patterns. Start by observing your serving line during peak breakfast or lunch rush. Look for bottlenecking issues, from food selection to point of service. Identify where the line slows down. Are there too many menu choices for students to choose from? If you provide five options, perhaps reducing them to three would help students make faster selections. Or, consider reorganizing the flow. If possible, try moving your cashier station away from the serving line(s) to alleviate backups and maintain flow. If you serve small condiment packets, neatly reorganize them in individual baskets or decorative tins for quick and easy access. Streamlining the process with some small tweaks can shave off a few seconds here and there which all adds up to getting students through the line faster.

We’ve worked with many districts with limited budgets to come up with solutions that were right for them. We can help you too with a site visit to view your operation in action and discuss possible ideas that you can immediately incorporate into your dining space.  Tell us what you need help with. Contact us today!

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Successful Cafeteria Design

6 Things to Consider in a Cafeteria Redesign

Are you a food service operator challenged with trying to generate increased revenue with outdated serving lines? Is this influencing you to renovate your cafeteria?

The need to renovate an outdated cafeteria is understandable as the serving lines of yesterday were designed for lower customer volumes and limited menus. They often don’t contain enough hot or cold wells to accommodate all entrees and side dishes (e.g. sandwiches, beverages or desserts) in demand today. This is just one major factor that fuels the decision to update a cafeteria.

To achieve a successful cafeteria design, begin the thought process before working with your architect or consultant. The best place to start is to consider six key criteria.

  1. Establish a budget. This will be the benchmark that tells you if your renovations are feasible.
  2. List your proposed menu ideas and concepts.
  3. Take into account the number of meals you are serving.
  4. Decide on the size and configuration of the serving stations required.
  5. Determine the key components for your serving stations, e.g. hot wells, cold wells, refrigeration, etc.
  6. Begin selecting your equipment and decor elements.

As you work on these six steps, strive to become an educated consumer. Learn about the many new types of equipment, decorative finishes and merchandising methods available to correct the deficiencies you’ve identified. This will enable you to make the best buying decision for your space and customers.

Additional Considerations:

  1. Scatter Design– A scatter design uses food stations that are themed with individual identities to serve specific menu items. Examples include grill stations, made-to-order delis and international menu ideas, all which appeal to the sophisticated palate and broad ethnic diversity of today’s customer. Also, merchandising is key to the scatter design. Select colorful eye-catching signage that identifies your food stations and highlights your menus’ nutritional content.
  2. Flexibility, Functionality, Longevity– When researching equipment, take into account flexibility, functionality and longevity. Regardless of space and anticipated layout, flexibility in the design of the equipment is the most important of these three criteria. Food trends constantly change and dictate menu choices. Flexible equipment will allow you to quickly adapt to these changes. Also, choosing functional, durable serving line pieces is equally important as they can be easily rearranged or moved for cleaning.
  3. Important Counter Options– How many times have menu changes forced you or your staff to use a hot well as a cold well and vice versa? Consider adding convertible hot-to-cold wells to counters and kiosks to accommodate changing menu trends. Also, adding self service food shields expands your serving capacity and are especially helpful during labor shortages or when menu changes dictate self service.

Planning Resources:

  1. Internet – The internet is ideal for researching different manufacturers to compare equipment, features and benefits that are important to you. Be conscious of energy efficiency and lifetime of operating costs.
  2. Site Visits– For a fresh perspective, check out newly built or renovated kitchens and dining facilities. Visit establishments considered industry trendsetters. Pay attention to design, layout and facilities. Consider incorporating their concepts into your cafeteria. Reviewing other operations is a wonderful way to single out good ideas and identify design features that aren’t working as well as intended.
  3. Network– Reach out to fellow foodservice directors who have recently completed a renovation or upgrade. Visit their installations and ask questions about their equipment and design. Ask them what changes they made to their environment to create an exciting customer experience. Find out what worked and what they would do differently.
  4. Foodservice Design and Layout Designers– If you need to build, renovate or make improvements to your existing dining facility, a food service consultant can provide the professional expertise and resources to support your project from design to implementation. To locate a designer in your area, check out the website for Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI). Click here to use their consultant locator.
  5. Retail Operations– Retail operations consultants improve business efficiency and profitability by providing a range of strategy, project planning and training services.

Doing your research well in advance of your renovation and listing all of the important elements is worth the effort. In the end, the proper planning will not only increase customer participation and enjoyment, but ultimately improve your revenue.

To help you start your checklist, check out our video, "6 Things to Consider in a Cafeteria Redesign."

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Redesign Your Line

Creating an inviting atmosphere in your K-12 school cafeteria can have a dramatic impact on student participation levels in the lunchroom and classroom. To see a slide show of 10 easy ways you can transform your cafeteria, click here.


Mealtimes should be positive and lunchrooms should be inviting places. Lunch should be an enjoyable part of the school day for students, whether they're in kindergarten or high school. The cafeteria should be a break from the rigors of the school day.

School nutrition programs that embrace this mentality, that transform school cafeterias into places where students can relax, socialize and become nourished, will enjoy the benefits of higher participation levels and higher performing students.

But, the question becomes how?

Create Inviting Entrances

For starters, consider how the lunchroom experience starts. Even a simple welcome sign can go a long way to establishing ownership and a sense of pride, which will inevitably increase student participation. Welcoming décor isn't that difficult to pull off, either. A quick run to the local hobby store can transform an entryway.

Provide Direction

One thing students struggle with the most is limited time. Lunch periods are getting shorter and shorter, and students don't have time to waste on trying to figure out where things are located within the cafeteria. If there's a grill area, identify it. If a line has a designated starting point, let students know. Get creative with signs and identifications too. It's an opportunity to turn a school cafeteria into a space that feels more like a restaurant or food court.

Enhance Displays

How you display foods is almost as important as what foods are displayed. Attracting and enticing students — and ultimately getting those students to buy meals — requires merchandising products in ways that showcase their freshness and abundance. Clean and tidy displays are preferred over clutter and disorder. Lighting and even tray colors like dark reds and blues can make menu items more appealing. The goal is to make foods as enticing as possible because, first, we eat with our eyes.

What are the benefits of a school cafeteria transformation?

Studies show a school cafeteria environment can have an impact on the general performance of the student body. When the eating environment is pleasant and appealing, students eat more of their lunch, do better in the classroom, and have fewer behavioral problems. This is why proper nourishment is so important.

In terms of participation, though, what's the true impact? How much does ambiance affect student meal participation? With just some simple transformations such as displays, graphics, décor, and design, a high school can experience increases of more than 20% in meal participation, resulting in totals of nearly $120,000 in annual revenue.

Learn more about how you can experience significant increases in student participation. Check out our slideshow that offers 10 free tips that will help you transform your cafeteria and improve student engagement in your meal programs.