2012 C&U Census Report
FoodService Director’s 2012 College & University Census is a snapshot of the C&U market, based on information from the 2010-2011 school year, supplied by 50 institutions.
College Foodservice Snapshot
- The 2012 College & University Census provides information from a mix of 50 large, medium and small institutions. Sixty-eight percent of the universities in our survey are self-managed; 30% contract their foodservice; while 2% run a mix of self-op and contract-managed accounts.
- The 2010-2011 school year’s average enrollment was 11,047, a nearly 3% increase from last year. The majority of students—61%—are commuters. Eighteen percent are commuter-only campuses.
- Eighty-two percent of colleges in our survey offer a meal plan. On average 2,394 students are on a meal plan, which accounts for an average of $8.5 million in revenue.
- The institutions averaged $9.7 million in foodservice revenue last year. Ninety-four percent operate retail outlets; 84% catering; 56% vending; and 20% concessions. The average revenues for these services were: cash operations, $2.7 million; catering, $105,076; vending, $494,450; and concessions, $952,893.
- University foodservice departments averaged nearly $8 million in total foodservice costs. Of that, on average $3.6 million was spent on labor, including benefits. Food purchases averaged $3.2 million.
- Executive chefs are employed at 70% of campuses. Forty-eight percent operate a market-style servery, with 75% of these located in a residence/dining hall.
- Fifty-two percent purchase organic food, with an average of 6% of their food purchases being organic.
Behind the Numbers
Nearly 80% of our college and university census respondents this year (2010-2011 school year) were the same as those who answered last year’s survey, which included data from the 2009-2010 school year. Among those colleges that reported for both years, average food purchases increased 6%, average labor costs grew nearly 5%, average total foodservice expenses rose 6% and average foodservice revenue increased nearly 9%. Here’s the story behind the numbers at four universities in our survey.
North Carolina State University
At this 34,400-student college in Raleigh, N.C., meal plan counts increased by nearly 700 in the 2010-2011 school year from the 2009-2010 school year. Randy Lait, senior director of hospitality services, attributes that growth to retention from year to year and to creating value.
“What we’ve done a really good job at is retention on students who were on the meal plan the previous year,” Lait says. “We’ve really tried to tweak the meal plans so that they become a great value for people. We’ve created a nice culture that [eating on campus] is the thing to do.”
One tweak Lait says has been very successful is the Freedom Pass plan, which combines unlimited visits to the dining halls with a meal equivalency that can be used at retail locations. Students can purchase the equivalent of $5.85 at lunch and dinner and $4.75 at breakfast in a retail location. Nearly 4,000 students are on the Freedom Pass meal plan, the department’s most expensive plan to purchase. “[This plan has] driven our top-end revenue up, and our traditional usage on it is still maintained to be about 14 meals per week,” Lait adds.
Lait is making changes to the Freedom Pass plan this fall to ensure that students can’t take advantage of the system. This fall a fourth meal period is being added, and the number of equivalencies on the plan will be capped at 10 per week so the department doesn’t lose money on the program.
The university has also seen a 12% increase in foodservice revenue from the 2009-2010 to the 2010-2011 school years. Lait says the majority of that comes from the increase in the number of students on meal plans. He says other factors include increasing the quality of food and service and renovating or adding locations.
The department also decreased total foodservice expenses by $45,000 from last year’s survey. Lait says much of that was accomplished by taking a hard look at the products purchased. The department joined a group purchasing program and started taking better advantage of its computer systems to analyze its retail locations.
“We set up some key performance indicators,” Lait says. “Every location knows what their targets are specific to that unit. Pretty quickly we found that we weren’t making the money we needed to make on this item or that. Sometimes it was a price increase or a portion change. Our coffee shops were about a point and a half over where they should have been on their target, and we went through and found the individual shop that had caused it. We’re digging into that one shop because we know where to look now.”
University of North Texas
Food purchases are up 8% in this most recent study as compared to last year’s study, to $5.2 million, at this 36,000-student university in Denton, Texas. Shohreh Sparks, operation director, says there are a couple of reasons behind the increase. One is the cost of food is increasing.
“The other part, and I think I should be happy about it, is improvement to our food,” Sparks says. “I think we have higher attendance for meals than we had during the fall of 2011, so that might also affect [food costs].” There are 8,000 students on the meal plan this year, 500 more than last year.
Some of the changes the department has made to increase the quality of food include adding more options and using fresh ingredients. For example, Bruce Cafeteria offers fresh pasta daily, and the number of pasta dishes increased from two to four. A hot, housemade dessert is now offered daily. Pizza at Bruce has also seen a change. Three to five types of pizza are offered daily. All pizza is made from scratch, and the department is now offering items like fresh mozzarella and herbs on its pies, which Sparks says affected food costs. The number of
vegan entrées served at Bruce increased, from four to six. A vegan salad bar is also offered.
The number of serving stations at Bruce also increased. “We went from five serving wells to 10 in each line, so we basically have 20 serving lines,” Sparks adds.
Herkimer County Community College
This 3,600-student institution in New York went from self-op to contract last year. Once Liverpool, N.Y.-based American Food & Vending took over, students were able to purchase a meal plan, an option not previously available. It is now mandatory for students living on campus to have a meal plan, and 700 students have purchased one.
The department’s revenue increased 88% for the school year ending in 2011 versus 2010. Jim Vair, general manager for American Food & Vending at the university, attributes the increase to offering meal plans.
Another change was adding the dinner meal period, which caused the department’s labor costs to increase 95%. “I run two full shifts where [the old department’s management] used to run one, which accounts for the increase in labor,” Vair says.
University of Missouri
This 33,800-student university in Columbia, Mo., also saw an increase in labor from last year’s census. Julaine Kiehn, director of Campus Dining
Services, says the 12% labor increase was because the department opened a new student center. About 100 student and 10 full-time staff members were added to the department’s workforce to run the new center.
The department’s revenue also increased nearly 10%, which Kiehn also says is because of the new center, which added six restaurants and a convenience store to the campus’s foodservice options.