Over the next three to five years, Insight to Action sees eight macro foodservice trends that are driving demand in the foodservice industry.
Colleges and Universities like Stanford and Texas Tech provide good examples of how to meet that demand, so we spoke to leaders in foodservice at these universities. Meeting the demands of today’s college students is a priority for these leading universities, yet their dining tradition, residential and commercial student mix, geographical footprint, and other factors of necessity impact their foodservice venue choices and offerings.
Stanford’s Multi-Pronged Foodservice Approach to Tempting College Student Taste Buds
Stanford University’s Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) has eleven dining halls to build community among its overwhelmingly residential undergraduate student body (99% of undergrads live on campus). This approach is in keeping with a long tradition of students eating in the dining hall at their residence, allowing them to dine together and form community around the dining room table, which is an integral part of the overall living- and-learning environment inherent in the residential education program.
Within a dining hall, the layout influences students’ choice to try new flavors or increase plant-based options in their diet. For example, by encouraging students to first walk past the Performance Dining Bar (salads, vegetarian and vegan options), which focuses on the performance benefits of whole foods including brain performance, sports performance, enhanced immunity, anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and food synergy, students will increase the amount of healthy choices they are making for their meal. This layout helps the student support their lifestyle eating plan (the third Foodservice Trend).
Under the direction of Senior Associate Vice Provost Dr. Shirley Everett, R&DE offers a diverse portfolio of choices beyond the dining halls to meet their students’ needs across Stanford’s 9,000-acre campus, including concessions, cafes and a market to ensure students have many options to choose from in both residential and retail dining (the fifth Foodservice trend). R&DE Stanford Dining also has many innovative programs that illustrate some of the Foodservice Trends, including The Teaching Kitchen @ Stanford, the Stanford Flavor Lab, and the Tasting Table.
At The Teaching Kitchen @ Stanford, cooking classes provide an opportunity for students to build important life skills, while also learning about health, wellness, nutrition, and sustainable food choices, with a goal of guiding them toward healthier, more sustainable, plant-forward diets. This aligns with the third Foodservice Trend of Lifestyle Eating Plans, including Plant-Based Proteins and the eighth Foodservice Trend of Ethical/Corporate Responsibility.
Eric Montell, Executive Director of R&DE Stanford Dining says:
“As the dining program for one of the leading research and academic institutions in the world, R&DE Stanford Dining is committed to excellence in the pursuit of delicious and sustainable food. We believe that by providing our students with high-quality, great tasting and sustainable food choices, and by educating them on healthy cooking techniques and sustainable ingredients, we can influence healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.”
The Stanford Flavor Lab and Tasting Table are designed to help students understand how certain foods are supposed to taste, and also to influence students on flavor exploration. These programs are a good illustration of the first Taste Trend.
The second Foodservice Trend, blurring of dayparts, is well-known on the college campus. R&DE Stanford Dining often serves breakfast for dinner, and even hosts a Midnight Breakfast event from 11:30 p.m. - 1:00 a.m. where administrators, faculty and staff serve breakfast to students on the first day of winter quarter’s “dead week” when students begin studying for final exams.
Texas Tech’s Foodservice Transformation
Texas Tech provides another great example of transforming to meet student demand. Kirk Rodriguez, Managing Director of Hospitality Services, who has overseen the transformation of their foodservice, explains:
“We started the transition from an all-you-care-to-eat plan to well-rounded retail, catering, kiosks, food trucks- probably about twelve years in the making. We now operate 21 physical locations and 50 touchpoints. In 1993, we had nine traditional dining halls; now we have only two. We expanded instead with five micro markets, and will open another in January 2019. We also have very good full-on food courts with leading franchises like Fazolis, Einstein Bros Bagels, Quiznos, and Chick-fil-a as well as our own brands- Daybreak Coffee for example. In the future, we might size down to just one dining hall. Today, 91% of our sales are a la carte, not through all-you-can-eat plans.”
Texas Tech’s higher concentration of highly-mobile commuter students helps to shape the demand as well as the campus’ large size. Mr. Rodriguez explains how students can pre-order with mobile application.
“We are a big user of technology. We have Tapingo on campus. Using this, the student bypasses the line, as they walk from one end of campus and put in an order (they often only have 10 minutes).”
We can see how Texas Tech is aligned with the fifth Foodservice Trend of new, on-the-go prepared food options and the sixth Foodservice Trend of technology-enabled information. Their approach to dayparts is also innovative, as Kirk explains:
“Like other universities, we’ve seen the demand for breakfast foods all day. Or late-night cookies with Insomnia. But what you might not expect is that students are lining up to order Chick-fil-a sandwiches for breakfast. We open that at 9am, and there is already a line.”
For food companies thinking about macro Foodservice Trends, colleges and universities like Texas Tech and Stanford provide a rich source of experimentation and inspiration.