3 ways to improve on-campus food halls

college student meals

From WinCup.

Campus dining halls have come a long way in the past several years. Nowadays, students, staff and visitors alike have seemingly endless options to choose from—even more so at some colleges and universities, where food-hall concept dining is gaining momentum. This movement mirrors the food halls that are now established in major cities, offering consumers the variety they crave with several, or even dozens of, restaurants in one convenient space.

On college campuses, food-hall concept dining has staying power thanks to its ability to maximize both selection and convenience. Are you ready to build up an on-campus food hall? Here are three tips.

1. Evaluate food lines

According to Technomic’s 2017 College & University Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite, 45% of consumers say speedy service is very important when they visit foodservice facilities. To increase pace of service and avoid frustrations, break up lines as much as possible per station.

Remember that the slowdowns may not be as obvious as you think. Take the time to identify heavy points of congestion during peak periods and replan your stations for maximum efficiency.

2. Be smart with serviceware

In today’s food halls, where consumers are stopping in for a quick bite or even taking their meals off-site, disposables are often preferred over dishes that require washing. Not only do disposables offer cost benefits, but they also ensure that food stays an appropriate temperature and remains great-tasting on the go.

Newer eco-friendly materials increase disposables’ appeal factor. In the Technomic report, 46% of consumers say it’s important for the foodservice locations they visit to promote recycling and use recycled materials or biodegradable packaging. Associating a food hall with new choices in disposables is a good way to engage consumers, particularly if those benefits are called out clearly on signage.

Even better: Tout those benefits right on the cup, like Vio® biodegradable* foam by WinCup. With custom print options available, Vio® cups and food containers clearly publicize an institution’s leadership by offering the first EPS foam cup on the market to biodegrade*. If the greater idea of sustainability is overwhelming (which is not uncommon), the solution is to focus on simple changes that are both cost-effective and efficient.

3. Maintain diversity

According to the Technomic report, 46% of students say that they find food trucks appealing because of their unique food offerings. Keep a food hall interesting by continually updating menu offerings. Specifically, 43% of students say that they would like their school to offer more ethnic foods and beverages, with 62% saying they’re most interested in Chinese food, Italian food (55%) and Spanish food (45%).

According to the report, edamame—a snackable green soybean commonly offered as a side with Asian meals—is the fastest-growing nonbreaded vegetable, while egg rolls are the fastest-growing breaded protein and hummus is the fastest growing dip.

Other popular items that will appeal to foodies seeking ethnic options include kimchi which, according to MenuMonitor, has grown 200% on college and university menus in the past year; or poke (pronounced poh-ke)—a raw fish dish popular in Hawaii that has grown 400% in the past year. Curry dishes have also gained speed, with instances on menus increasing 30%.

By offering a well-diversified menu that keeps pace with consumer desires, a food hall can continue to be a key component of an institution’s overall competitive edge. Convenience and speed, environmentally friendly practices and an appealing variety of menu options are big factors in what differentiates a food hall and makes it successful.

*Cups biodegrade 92% over 4 years. Tested under conditions that simulate both wetter and biologically active landfills using the ASTM D5511 test. Wetter or biologically active landfills may not exist in your area. The stated rate and extent of degradation do not mean that the product will continue to decompose.

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