College and university students expecting more from on-campus foodservice

June 09 2017

As college and university enrollment continues to rise throughout North America, opportunities for the foodservice industry are also expected to grow. 
However, recent research from Technomic has indicated that on-campus operators are facing increasing competition, especially as technological advancements allow more off-campus restaurants to reach on-campus students. If colleges and universities want to continue to grow foodservice sales, they will need to keep up with how foodservice spaces are evolving - particularly in terms of technology and food preferences.
Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights, explained that many colleges and universities were already introducing new dishes and formats to keep up with the latest trends - such as make-it-yourself dining hall stations.
"Continuing to meet students’ high expectations of variety, authenticity, and flexibility will be crucial to growing sales on or near campuses in the coming years," she explained, adding that tech-based amenities like mobile apps for pre-ordering or on-campus delivery can meet students' needs for flexibility and convenience.
As part of their research, Technomic compiled findings from 1,500 university students. In addition to examining how technology was transforming the dining experience at colleges and universities, it also looked at other eating trends among students.
For example, the study found that nearly half (49 per cent) of college and university students now avoid at least one type of meat or animal product. This ranges from usually avoiding red meat through to being vegan, but makes it clear that food options without animal products are a must-have on campus menus. Just over half of students surveyed (54 per cent) also said they believed it was important to eat healthy food and pay attention to nutrition.
Price was another key point for students, with 58 per cent saying they are price-sensitive when choosing something to eat off campus, while 46 per cent said they were concerned about price when purchasing food on campus.