2008 Menu Development Survey: The state of the plate 2008

Ethnic menu items continue to gain popularity among noncommercial foodservice operators.

Veggie volume
According to the survey, 9% of the average noncommercial menu is given over to vegetarian or vegan food items. That figure is up slightly from 7% last year. The biggest jump in vegetarian items is on college campuses, where 15% of the average menu is given over to meatless items; the percentage last year was 10%.

In the other market sectors, the percentages of vegetarian and vegan items are: B&I, 9%; hospitals and schools, 8%, and long-term care, 4%.

When it comes to requests for meatless options, 12% of college customers are asking for them, 10% of B&I customers, 6% in hospitals, and 4% in schools and long-term care.

Trans-fat transition
The noncommercial industry is inching closer to a trans fat-free business, according to our survey. Only 10% of operators polled say they have not eliminated trans fats from their menu items; the number last year was 16%. Virtually all B&I operators have eliminated trans fats from at least some items, while on the flip side, 24% of long-term care operators still have yet to address the trans fats problem.

Regarding specific products and processes, on average 81% of operators have removed trans fats from frying oils and shortening, 57% from salad oils and 35% from baked goods. In addition, 25% say they have stopped purchasing products that contain trans fats.

“We continue to eliminate trans fats on a regular basis,” says Nona Golledge, director of dining for the University of Kansas. “It’s more about when products become available that we look at them, but it is definitely something we are moving forward with in all of our products.”

The local angle
Despite the increasing desire on the part of both customers and operators to do whatever they can to reduce the environmental footprint, sourcing local and/or organic products continues to be a challenge for many operators. Nearly 26% of operators say they are not sourcing any products locally, and 68% say they are not buying organic items. Last year, those percentages were 20% and 69%, respectively. For most operators, availability continues to be the major roadblock.

“We have really tried to push local and organic, but it has been difficult to get products through the regular local channels because there is not a wide enough variety,” says John Barclay, assistant director of nutritional care at Mission Hospital, Mission Viejo, Calif. “We are doing only a limited amount.”

Colleges and universities are most likely to be sourcing local and organic, with only 13% saying they don’t buy local products, and 36% saying they don’t source organic.

When it comes to products, those buying local are most likely to purchase locally grown produce and locally produced dairy items; 57% say they buy produce, 55% buy dairy, 38% buy baked goods and 33% buy meats and/or seafood from local sources.

On the organic side, 22% of operators buying organic source produce, 17% source snacks and 11% source meats/seafood and/or dairy.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

As part of a 10-year contract to run Eastern Michigan University’s foodservice, Chartwells will invest $5 million in the Ypsilanti, Mich., university, as well as provide it with $18 million in capital improvements, according to a report by the Detroit Free Press .

The university’s board of regents approved the contract on Tuesday, citing the new revenue as an opportunity to expand and improve campus foodservice. EMU’s website indicates the partnership will allow for more student input as well as the introduction of food trucks and improved technology.

“The primary reason...

Industry News & Opinion

Students at the University of Virginia will soon be able to use part of their meal plans to buy fresh food grown locally, the result of a new partnership between the school and Greens to Grounds, a nonprofit organization run by students.

Starting in the fall, students will be able to use their meal plan “Plus Dollars” to purchase premade food boxes from Greens to Grounds. The boxes, which come in “snack” or “produce” options, contain a variety of vegetables and fruits with a different weekly menu. The packages typically cost no more than $10, and students will be able to place box...

Industry News & Opinion

The USDA analyzed the efficacy of using Medicaid data to certify students for free or reduced-price lunch, a provision included in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Participating states and districts reported conflicting data on changes in the percentage of students certified, number of meals served, federal reimbursements and certification costs.

The method is used as an alternative to household applications and data matching with other public benefit programs to streamline the certification of more low-income students. The program was first piloted statewide in Kentucky...

Ideas and Innovation
kids students cafeteria line

While summer feeding programs are commonplace in school districts across the country, foodservice operators still struggle to get the word out and kids in.

Many districts are scaling back or discontinuing their summer feeding programs due to low participation, citing staffing costs and other issues that make it difficult to break even and provide a profitable program.

“We need to find a way to encourage that participation,” Tom Freitas—foodservice director for Traverse City Area Public Schools in Traverse City, Mich.—told Record Eagle News . “We are open to ideas as long as...

FSD Resources