May 2014 Emerging Trends

This month: USC's burrito vending machine, top 10 dessert trends for 2014 and pizza's brave new world.

Published in FSD Update

USC’s burrito vending machine

Students at the University of Southern California (USC) can now get a burrito from a vending machine. Burritobox, the company that produces the burrito-dispensing machines, contacted the university last year to see if it wanted to be the first college campus with the technology. USC accepted, and the machine went into business in late March.

Kris Klinger, director of USC Hospitality, says the concept was a great fit for the campus. “It’s what students are looking for. It’s convenient, fast, available 24 hours a day, at a good price point and tasty,” he says. The machine is located in Park Side Apartments. Because the dining hall in Park Side closes at 10 p.m., Klinger says the burrito machine will be a good late-night option. Depending on student reaction—the initial response has been “extremely positive,” Klinger says, although a 24-hour free burrito period didn’t hurt—additional machines could be added to campus.

The machines offer five burrito options for $3. Guacamole is available for 75 cents. After students select their burrito, it takes around 60 seconds for the machine to heat it up. 

Pizza’s brave new world

Domino’s might not be the only pizza specialist cancelling its 30-minutes-or-less delivery promise. The US Army Natick Soldier Research, Develop-ment and Engineering Center is close to developing a shelf-stable pizza that would be good for up to three years. Pizza is one of the most requested ready-to-eat meals from soldiers, according to Michelle Richardson, food scientist at Natick. After years of tweaking the sauce, cheese and dough to prevent moisture from seeping into the bread and creating bacteria, the center says it has the right combination. Now, it’s working to perfect the taste. “It pretty much tastes just like a typical pan pizza that you make at home and take out of the oven or the toaster oven,” Jill Bates, who runs the taste lab at Natick, told the New York Post. The only catch? The pie would be served at room temperature. That shouldn’t be too much of a hindrance for another audience that might be eager to try out the product: college students.  

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
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Nurses often mention that at 2 p.m. they are dragging and just trying to get through their 12-hour shift. This winter I will be implementing a 2 p.m. pick-me-up, which will include a smoothie station where they can create their own smoothie to help get them through their shift. It will be filled with energy-boosting ingredients to personalize their own drink, such as bananas, almonds, spinach and even dark chocolate.

Ideas and Innovation
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Winter is when our guests frequently crave something comforting and hearty, and chili is great for that. Our plan is to boost guest engagement this winter by inviting them to design a unique chili experience. The guest chooses the type of chili first, then the vessel: bowl, bread or potato. Next, they customize their dish even further by choosing the toppings, which will be categorized as traditional, creamy, crunch or heat. The wild card, crunch and heat categories, are where my team and I will flex our creativity and highlight different flavors, ingredients or techniques.

Ideas and Innovation
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In search of inspiration for this letter, I turned to the one I wrote for January 2017, in which I griped about some trends I wanted to toss in the new year. Twelve months later, the Sriracha trend has calmed down, food trucks seem slightly less pervasive and, while the definition of “clean” eating continues to evolve, it’s not so laser-focused on GMOs. So it seems my predictions were correct, including the one about where I’d be eating on New Year’s Day (though I had no clue my now-fiance would propose to me that night over duck noodle soup).

However, since this year has been...

Industry News & Opinion

Dining hall workers at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., have been asked to remove stickers worn in protest of working conditions at the school’s dining halls, The Stanford Daily reports.

School officials say that the stickers with the statement “Respect and a Fair Workload” go against a union-university agreement that states union members may not wear “insignia [with] any message that is vulgar, profane, or disparaging of Stanford, or that results in conflict or disruption in the workplace.”

In a conversation with The Daily, Seth Leibson, senior organizer for SEIU...

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