5 ways to increase student satisfaction

organic produce foodservice

From Horizon Organic®.

On college campuses, the need to offer a variety of dining options is high. Students have several different dietary needs and preferences—in fact, students are more likely than the general U.S. population to follow special diets, including vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian or semi-vegetarian diets, according to Technomic’s 2017 College & University Consumer Trend Report, with nearly half (49%) saying they avoid some form of meat or animal products.

Beyond dietary preferences, 11% of college students have food allergies such as dairy, peanuts, shellfish, wheat/gluten and tree nuts, as noted in the Technomic report. What’s more, according to Technomic, 60% of students say that organic items are important to them, with 30% willing to pay more for organic options.

With special diets, allergies and specific dietary preferences as prevalent as they are, it’s crucial for operators to offer craveable choices that meet these diverse needs.

What students want

On-the-go lifestyles inform a lot of what students’ preferences are when it comes to eating. For instance, according to the Technomic report, 46% of foodservice meals are taken to go, so operators should offer portable options that are convenient and ready-to-eat, such as yogurt parfaits, cheese snacks or smoothies.

Forty-two percent of meal plan users say that overall, they are satisfied with their school’s foodservice facilities. Here are a few ways to boost that number:

  • Add interactive service lines that allow students to choose their ingredients
  • Offer lesser-known global cuisines to satisfy the desire for unique and ethnic menu items
  • Make nutritional information readily available on menu boards or the website
  • Label items as “high-protein” or “low-calorie” for quicker decision making
  • Offer a dining app that allows menus and orders to be accessed on the go

How operators can deliver

It can seem like a daunting task to keep up with food trends that seem to be constantly changing. One thing that operators can do to meet student demand is to offer a high degree of customization, including self-serve topping stations for lunch items featuring unique cheeses or ethnic ingredients.

It’s also important to offer a good range of both healthy and indulgent items—male students have a greater interest in heavier, meat-based lunches and dinners, while women prefer lighter fare, according to the Technomic report.

Offering plant-based proteins is ideal for students abstaining from eating meat, and snackable options, such as edamame, cheese snacks and falafel, are great for vegetarians and flexitarians alike looking for healthy and filling choices. Operators can also consider adding ethnic cuisines, such as Indian, Jamaican and Vietnamese.

Making sure that students have an array of foods to choose from is key when working toward dining program satisfaction goals. Giving diners the ability to eat what they want, when they want it, can lead to higher participation in campus meal programs, as well as higher student satisfaction.

Horizon Organic® can help your operation meet consumers’ campus dining expectations with a full line of organic dairy milks, non-dairy beverages, cheeses and yogurts. For more information, contact Horizon Organic® at 1-888-620-9910.

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