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Campus Dining and How to Satisfy the New Consumer

The campus dining experience is an increasingly important factor in the decision-making process of which college a student should attend. Since there are so many options of universities, this experience needs to be optimized to give your university an advantage. College provides an opportunity for students to try new things, and this includes expanding their palette. Sometimes dining halls need to shape to new and emerging trends to keep up with the ever-changing needs of a student population. New students are requesting offerings like larger menu options, more to-go options, and longer hours.

As the diversity of the student population increases and as people from around the world travel to more universities, more international cuisines are desired to fit the tastes of all students. That being said, updating the traditional cuisine is still required to provide the taste of American foods to those who want that type of food as well. Staple comfort foods are still important to many college students despite the large demand for eating green and being socially conscious. For many students, eating at college is the first time navigating food choices on their own. Also, all of this doesn’t even cover the increased demand for foods that cater to all dietary restrictions from gluten-free, to plant-based, to dairy free. Some restaurants have found that by accommodating food allergies, they can increase profits by as much as 24% according to some studies from Aramark. Try to incorporate small changes into your operating process to prevent allergen contamination, such as switching your pan sprays to Vegalene Allergen Free Food Release Spray. This will allow you to keep your process the same — with the same results — without having to worry about having any allergens present in the cooking process. When experimenting with new food items be sure you are providing a variety of options to appease as many students at once – but still staying within your scope. It is good to try new things, but some eaters may be unwilling to change or adapt their eating habits and sometimes everyone cannot be accommodated in every dish. However, the younger generation is more willing than other generations to try new food and new diets so they may be your perfect audience for a trial run.

According to Aramark, by 2021, nearly 50 million U.S. consumers will use a food delivery app. Everyone has an app on their phone whether it’s DoorDash, UberEats, Grubhub, or others, and some even use them frequently – up to multiple times a week. The day and age of having everything on your cell phone means that dining halls also need to catch up with their technologically savvy consumers. These young college students are on the go more than ever and patience is wearing thin. Campus dining can adapt to provide better to-go options whether it be grab-and-go or meal kits to grab and take for later. The ability to provide mobile ordering systems to pick up when they are ready provides a new level of convenience this type of customer desires. Providing innovative methods for students to make them want to choose campus dining is essential to retaining this type of consumer – convenience is everything.

Students are busy and can work really long hours from juggling a full course load, a part-time job, and other campus activities. That being said, to college students the speed of every other thing in their day is crucial, but they also need it to be convenient for their particular lifestyle. Meal kits provide an opportunity for students to make food on their own time without having to pay a late-night delivery fee. The world in 2022 is all about convenience and fast services, and college students expect the same from their dining services. Meal kits are a good option to have available at all times as they allow for more flexibility as well as the alternative to cook for yourself and learn about new recipes. This provides another way for dining halls to be “open” longer and have longer hours without having to be in full operation with full staffing to provide food and service to these students.

There are many innovative ways to acclimate dining halls to provide an experience for students and keep them coming back. It’s a chance and a place for them to explore new foods as well as feel they are safe and healthy eating there. An important factor to remember is to make sure an experience is created. The age that college students are is a key time to expand palettes and try new things, while also needing that motivation to try from a trendy dish, fast service, or convenient package. This shapes and develops them and their tastes for when they become consumers outside of college and will influence what kinds of products they buy and what kind of establishments they eat at in the future.

Content courtesy of Par-Way Tryson