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4 Factors Impacting College Foodservice

4 Factors Impacting College Foodservice

More than just about any other industry, foodservice tends to change in shorter periods of time.

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

So what are the 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:

CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS MEAN CHANGING MENUS.

As we've already detailed in a different blog, demographics are changing on college campuses. With a more divergent 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. To generate more relevant and appealing menus, 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. The rise of food allergies and food-related illnesses like celiac disease makes it imperative that foodservice operators provide ingredient-sensitive options for those students who can't 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 safety and well-being.

LABOR IS A HUGE CHALLENGE.

It's becoming harder to find, train, and retain great foodservice employees. This also holds true for college cafeterias and dining halls. Sure, there's always a pool of college students looking to pay tuition or just wanting some extra spending money, but often they can make more by working in the restaurant across the street.

Increasingly, technology is playing a huge role in spearheading these challenges. From online ordering and delivery, to digital touchscreen menus on-site, technology and automated kitchens are helping operators deal with these various new labor challenges.

STUDENTS DEMAND TRANSPARENCY AND SUSTAINABILITY.

Today's student populations are more connected to their food supplies than ever before. They care about where food comes from, how it's grown or raised, and how it impacts the environment as a whole. Health is a key word when it comes to today's students, but it 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.

AFFORDABILITY WILL ALWAYS MATTER.

There's an oversimplified way to look at college and university foodservice, but it's true nonetheless. The more a university invests in its foodservice delivery, the better its service will be. At the same time, it's extremely challenging to keep 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 not only speak to a diverse student body, but also to the locations and the times that students are able to eat. To meet these student dining demands, it's important to utilize other profit centers like on-campus convenience stores or grab-n-go kiosks.

There are many factors that are already impacting college and university foodservice.  Be sure to download your copy of our e-report that lists all of the top trends you can expect in the 2019-2020 school year.

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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...