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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Our elementary menu is currently riding the breakfast-anytime advertising trend by offering Breakfast for Lunch every Tuesday. It ranks as our highest participation, and it was a great way for us to introduce chicken and waffles inspired by an IHOP dish.

Ideas and Innovation
rolling silverware

Ensuring that employees regularly complete the busywork missing from their daily checklist can be a challenge, but these tasks often help an operation run efficiently with fewer unexpected costs. At Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., Regional Executive Chef Dustin Cochran has found a solution to ensure his walk-in coolers always have a clean vent. Cochran starts with a thorough cleaning of the vent, then slips a hairnet over it to catch the dust. Instead of getting employees to deep clean the vents, they need only replace the hairnet.

Ideas and Innovation
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Team uniforms are a way we encourage fun. I tell the mangers that every person on your team needs to look like a member of your team, but they can decide together what they want to wear. When the students see a cafeteria person that is matching and having fun with their outfits, they relate to those people better. We don’t want them to look stiff and stuffy.

Ideas and Innovation
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We have spent considerable money making cafeterias cool again. New paint jobs, crazy color patterns, custom graphics and changes in lighting schemes have made some of our cafes popular gathering places. We’ve also experimented with videos, cable TV programs and music. We involved a number of student groups and student input in improving the atmosphere, especially in our high school and middle school cafeterias.

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