What I Learned Today at MenuDirections

As a conference first-timer, I had a few unusual revelations.

By 
Peter Romeo, Director of Digital Content

One day into the Menu Directions conference here in Charleston, S.C., I’ve stumbled across some truths that surprised this first-time attendee of the meeting, an immersion in America’s foodservice preferences. Not all of the insights pertain to food and flavors, as these learnings attest:

--The best-selling products in college convenience stores are condoms and energy drinks. Any correlation is a strong matter of conjecture.

--Youngsters’ over-reliance on their parents doesn’t end when the kids head off to college. A college director said he often hears from moms and dads when student-employees aren’t able to make their shift in an on-campus facility. Instead of calling the boss themselves, they have the parents do it, even if the parets are residing hundreds of miles away.

--Food preferences may be more a result of nurture than nature. Consider chef Dave Zino’s aside on why some people are accustomed to having their steaks well-done. “My mother was the best cook in the world, God rest her soul. But I was in my 20s before I realized that pork chops didn’t have to be cooked until they were crispy to be good,” Zino recounted during a brainstorming session on ways of promoting health in non-commercial facilities. “She thought you had to cook the tar out of everything.”

--The use of beef in salads is a trend clearly on the upswing.

--Customers prefer fresh foods over organic choices by a 3:1 ratio.

--There are 30 different types of Creole tomatoes.

--There’s a technology gap between foodservice directors and their management counterparts from restaurants. At any conference for the latter, you’d see the attendees pecking away on laptops and tablets. Looking at the room of executives from the non-commercial sector, you'd be hardpressed to find one who was taking notes via a keyboard. This is still a paper-and-ink crowd.

--No sector of the foodservice industry is as punctual as executives on the non-commercial side of the business. The foodservice directors attending our conference typically showed up early. They don’t seem to share restaurateurs’ attitude that being on time is an ideal to shoot for, not an objective that should be consistently met.

I’ll have more for you after Day Two. 

By Peter Romeo, Director of Digital Content
View More Articles By Peter Romeo

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
aquaponics produce

We partnered with a student group interested in aquaponics to build a recirculating fish tank and lettuce growing operation in our Oval Dining Center. The large tanks are stocked with tilapia that live in the water and fertilize lettuce growing in the recirculating water under grow lights. We then harvest the lettuce and use it in our operations. The unit is set up in the dining room where customers can see the science in action, learn about the process and enjoy the fresh lettuce that was just picked.

Ideas and Innovation
fridge system

We installed a remote refrigeration system as part of our cafeteria renovation. The main part of the system is located on the roof and controls all our refrigerated equipment, including the walk-in freezer and coolers, beverage refrigerator, etc. The system allows us to identify problems faster, and the elimination of individual condenser units cuts down on A/C bills as well as noise.

Industry News & Opinion

Students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will be served student-grown produce from the campus farm at dining halls this fall, M Live reports.

The dining team received its first batch of produce from UM’s on-campus farm in June, after students received the proper USDA certification to grow, harvest and deliver food to campus dining halls. In order to figure out what produce is needed, students communicate with the dining department weekly, and Michigan Dining purchases items accordingly.

"The students are involved from seed to plate," Executive Chef Frank Turchan...

Sponsored Content
college students eating

From Ovention.

Today’s colleges and universities know they should offer more than a large selection of breakfast cereals in the morning and chicken tenders at lunch to appeal to students. When it comes to what’s trending on campuses, here’s a look at what directors can tune into to boost engagement.

1. Expanded dining hours

Late-night options have long been a popular fixture on college campuses, but if it’s too late, students often choose to venture to off-campus retailers to satisfy their cravings. According to Technomic’s 2017 College & University Consumer Trend...

FSD Resources