The headlines in today’s foodservice industry have become all too common. Consumer traffic remains flat. The same applies to the number of restaurants and even revenues on a quarterly basis. Anyone who only pays attention to those high-level metrics could be left with an impression that the foodservice industry is stagnating. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Take, for example, college and university foodservice. Menus that once lacked innovation have been replaced with on-trend, mouth-watering, chef-driven dishes that embrace customers’ cravings for customization and convenience.
Today’s college students do not adhere to the traditional dayparts when it comes to dining. Give them the choice between sleeping an extra 20 minutes or grabbing breakfast, the former will always win out. As a result, the first meal a college student eats may come during the lunch hour. This likely means all-day breakfast will remain on college foodservice menus for the foreseeable future.
In addition, few of today’s college students grew up eating dinner during the more traditional hours of 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. Instead, their busy schedules often meant mealtimes got pushed back much later into the evening. That portends a change in late night dining menus that colleges and universities offer as students push back their evening meals to later in their day. While pizza and chicken strips have long served as the cornerstones of late night dining, many operators continue to add healthier options to this daypart.
College and university foodservice continues to extend well beyond traditional cafeterias and serveries. It includes convenience stores and other forms of retail as well as a growing emphasis on catering. Catering does more than help facilitate meetings or on-campus celebrations; it helps colleges and universities connect with the communities in which they operate by facilitating food-centric experiences and creating new revenue streams.
But college and university foodservice does more than feed customers’ stomachs. Today’s college and university foodservice operators also strive to satiate students’ appetites for knowledge in the form of healthy eating, cooking fundamentals and more. Teaching kitchens continue to emerge as the classroom for these life lessons.
Indeed, college and university foodservice operators must not only balance the needs of their businesses today, they must also continue to look around the corner to see what’s coming next. In “Direct from the Directors”, college and university foodservice operators from around the country share their perspectives on what’s hot, what’s on their minds and much more.
If you think you know college and university foodservice, you might want to think again. This issue of FE&S can provide a brief refresher course on one of the foodservice industry’s most dynamic operator segments.