5 big regional menuing differences

Published in FSD Update

Dana Moran, Managing Editor

usa map regions

From global flavors to clean labels, it’s clear that some buzzworthy noncommercial menu trends are universal. But FoodService Director’s 2016 surveys have revealed some noteworthy differences within segments in the Northeast, South, Midwest and West regions. We combed through data from our College and University Census, Hospital Census and Long-Term Care/Senior Living Census for the most surprising variations in menu trends and expectations.

1. Plant-based dishes are on the rise at Midwestern colleges and universities

Seventy-seven percent of C&U operators in this region say they expect to increase the availability of vegetarian menu items in the next two years, versus 69% in the West, 60% in the Northeast and 31% in the South. Meanwhile, 68% of Midwestern operators expect to increase vegan menu items, versus 54% of operators in the West, 44% in the Northeast and 38% in the South.

2. Operators in the Northeast are betting big on local dairy products

Across all three segments, respondents in this region were the most likely to say they are sourcing at least some of their milk, cheese and other dairy products locally. A full 80% of C&U respondents agreed with this statement, versus 77% in the Midwest, 69% in the West and 46% in the South. Sixty percent of hospital FSDs say the same, versus 50% in the Midwest, 49% in the West and 42% in the South. And 41% of LTC/Senior Living operators are buying local dairy, with 38% in the West, 29% in the Northeast and 13% in the South saying the same.

3. Gluten-free is less likely to increase in the South

In two out of three segments surveyed, operators in the South were least likely to report plans to increase their gluten-free offerings in the next two years. Forty-two percent of LTC/Senior Living respondents in this region plan to up gluten-free foods, versus 62% in the West, 61% in the Northeast and 46% in the Midwest. Half of Hospital FSDs expect to increase gluten free, versus 45% in the Midwest, 55% in the Northeast and 57% in the South. And in C&U, 69% of operators plan to increase gluten-free, versus 91% in the Midwest, 80% in the Northeast and 69% in the South.

4. Operators in the Midwest love local meat

They don’t call it “cattle country” for nothing—Midwestern operators across all three segments were mostly likely to report sourcing at least some meat locally. In C&U, 64% of FSDs in the Midwest are sourcing local meat, versus 60% in the Northeast, 31% in the South and 23% in the West. Thirty-seven percent of hospital FSDs use local meat, versus 27% in the West, 10% in the South and 4% in the Northeast. And 21% of LTC/Senior Living respondents source locally for meat, with 15% of operators in the West, 11% in the Northeast and 10% in the South saying the same.

5. Overall, local is huge at Western colleges and universities

Nearly all—92%—of respondents in this region say they expect to increase their use of locally sourced foods in the next two years, a major difference from the 54% of Southern operators who say the same. In the Northeast, 88% of operators expect a two-year increase in local, as do 82% in the Midwest.

About the respondents:

Of the 73 operators who responded to FSD’s 2016 College and University Census, 34% work at schools in the Northeast, 18% in the South, 30% in the Midwest and 18% in the West.

Of the 244 operators who responded to FSD’s 2016 LTC/Senior Living Census, 25% work at operations in the Northeast, 25% in the South, 36% in the Midwest and 14% in the West.

Of the 184 operators who responded to FSD’s 2016 Hospital Census, 14% work at operations in the Northeast, 28% in the South, 34% in the Midwest and 24% in the West.

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