Boston College: Building engagement with all-day dining options

boston college acai bowl

From Dannon Foodservice.

Catering to the go-go-go lifestyle of university students is a challenge, and it’s one that Boston College dining representatives wrestle with daily.

“Students don’t just want to eat dinner between 5 and 7 p.m.,” says Beth Emery, the school’s director of dining. “They may want to eat dinner at 9 o’clock. We’ve been trying to come up with creative solutions.”

Those creative solutions include everything from offering breakfast items throughout the day to providing healthier late-night choices to trolling social media for trendy new menu ideas.

Boston College, which has some 14,000 students, serves about 21,000 meals each day an on all-retail, pay-as-you-go basis. The school has three main dining halls, some of which are open until 2 a.m., and multiple smaller foodservice locations around campus.

One of the school’s most-popular menu items recently has been acai bowls, which are sold for breakfast as well as lunch. “There are lines out the door for it,” Emery says. “It’s a very popular station.”

The bowls feature yogurt, acai powder, frozen berries and an assortment of toppings including sliced and dried fruits, granola, pumpkin seeds and more.

Similarly, Boston College offers avocado toast at breakfast and also during the dinner daypart. Customizable yogurt stations with a rotating assortment of toppings including nuts, seeds, coconut, honey and fruit are sold throughout the day as well.

Both avocado toast and acai bowls are Instagram darlings. Emery and her staff regularly search the social media platform for inspiration.

“You get some of your best ideas from looking at the photos,” she says, adding that the school now serves avocado halves with customizable fillings, an idea borrowed from Instagram.

She also encourages her staff to pay regular visits to local restaurants and retailers to see where and what students are eating. An upcoming management team meeting will be held at the new Eataly outpost in Boston, and she expects each team member to come up with a new foodservice idea during their time there.

“We’re constantly trying to get out into the marketplace,” Emery says. “We look at local dining places and our competition and we try to stay on top of it.”

Following food-safety guidelines, the school works hard to repurpose ingredients for use throughout all-day dining. Dinner leftovers might get new life on the late-night menu. Unfinished oatmeal from breakfast gets used in grab-and-go oatmeal-quinoa parfaits.

For late-night studiers, the college has added healthier grab-and-go options such as yogurt parfaits with granola and berries, overnight oats with fruit toppings and snack platters with cheese and crackers or Mediterranean items such as hummus, pita and stuffed grape leaves.

Grab-and-go items are made more appealing with eye-catching labels and packaging. Newly installed digital signage also helps promote new items, as does social media outreach.

The school also has a dining advisory board of student representatives who offer foodservice suggestions.

Meet the nonstop dining needs of today’s busy college students with craveable meals and snacks that function across all dayparts. Healthy grab-and-go snacks such as yogurt parfaits and customizable dishes such as DIY bowls are successful from breakfast to late night, boosting both consumer engagement and profits.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Amherst-Pelham Regional School District in Amherst, Mass., is updating its lunch debt policy to no longer single out students, MassLive reports.

Under the new policy, students with lunch debt will be given the same meals as their peers, regardless of how much they owe. School officials will also be communicating directly with parents of students who have accumulated debt instead of through the students themselves.

The updated policy comes just before U.S. school districts will be required to publicly list their lunch debt policies, per new USDA requirements starting July 1...

Menu Development
eureka

Since California’s state motto is “Eureka!” it seems fitting that a recent conversation with the director of hospitality at San Diego’s Palomar Health led to the biggest aha moment I’ve had in a long time.

I called Jim Metzger in late April with the purpose of discussing Palomar’s recent commitment to the goal of making 60% of its total menu plant-based by this summer. It seemed a lofty number, and I was curious how the public health system planned to get there.

But my personal eureka didn’t come while we were talking about how Palomar had cleaned up the impulse-buy zones...

Industry News & Opinion

Labeling foods with indulgent buzzwords such as “sweet sizzlin’” and “crispy” can lead consumers to make healthier food choices , according to a recent study out of Stanford University .

In the fall 2016 study, researchers labeled vegetables in one of the school’s dining halls using terms from four categories: basic, healthy restrictive, healthy positive or indulgent.

The green beans, for example, were listed as “green beans” for basic, “light ‘n’ low-carb green beans and shallots” for healthy restrictive, “healthy energy boosting green beans and shallots” for healthy...

Ideas and Innovation
sparkling water

Our carbonated soft drink sales at Earls.67 reflect a national trend; we’re continually down on carbonated soft drink sales by 8% to 9% on an annual basis,” says Cameron Bogue, beverage director at the contemporary-casual chain Earls Kitchen + Bar.

The issue with spa water

Many operators are intrigued with the offering, but they are learning that infused water can’t be offered at a cost to guests unless there is added value beyond cut-up fruit. Bogue says, “I was adamant that I didn’t want to charge for spa water.”

Agua fresca alternatives

At the original location of

...

FSD Resources