C&U operators leverage pizza toppings, novel and familiar

natural carnitas pizza

From Hormel Foodservice.

Depending on the toppings, a pizza can be traditional, innovative or both. That versatility is key to pleasing college and university students, campus dining operators say.

For every student stirred by pepperoni, another jumps at duck confit and wild mushrooms on a crust. However, eating pizza is a very personal experience. A person’s craving can vary according to mood, setting and time of day. From time to time, the traditionalist may desire unique flavors and the adventurer a familiar, comforting pie.

In the topping category, pepperoni still is going strong and sausage, ham and bacon have many fans as well. But operators also are reaching out to customers by using innovative toppings inspired by global cuisines and food trends. Examples range from slow-cooked beef or pork barbacoa on a Mexican-style pizza to smoky, savory pulled pork on a barbecue-themed pie. Such ingredients satisfy the demands of consumers—especially millennials—to have new sensations and cultural experiences through food.

At Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., it takes an array of toppings, both unusual and familiar, to keep pizza exciting throughout the school year.

“You have a pepperoni pizza and a sausage pizza,” says Kurt Kwiatkowski, corporate chef of Culinary Services at MSU, which serves 35,000 to 40,000 meals per day. “But you also do a pulled pork pizza and a kimchee pizza. You mix it up and have some fun.”

Pizza is one of many appealing menu offerings at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, America’s largest C&U dining program serving 5.5 million meals per year. To help pizza hold its own against hand-rolled sushi and made-to-order burgers, salads and stir-fries, toppings have gotten more creative, says Van Sullivan, UMass director of retail dining.

For example, an individual-sized, gourmet pie with duck confit, wild mushrooms and béchamel sauce on hand-stretched organic crust “is really starting to take off,” says Sullivan. Also popular are salad pizzas featuring arugula and pesto and veggie pies topped with broccolini and broccoli rabe.

In addition, pizza innovations can help operators mine new dayparts and business opportunities. MSU’s breakfast pizzas sport toppings like scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage and bacon. There is also a riff on Southern biscuits and gravy with breakfast sausage and country gravy on a pizza.

Both universities also have succeeded with dessert pizzas. MSU’s hits include a pizza with Michigan blueberries or peaches and mascarpone cheese and another with chocolate-hazelnut spread and bruleed bananas. UMass has scored with apple pie pizza and s’mores pizza. “We put anything you can find in the bake shop on a pizza and it is a lot of fun,” says Sullivan.

UMass also has its own pizza delivery program at night on part of the campus. The toppings are largely traditional, but the quality is out of the ordinary. “We have nitrate-free pepperoni, higher-quality cheese, housemade organic dough—all at the same price you pay for a mainstream pizza,” says Sullivan.

Could you be doing more with your pizza program? Hormel Foodservice has a complete portfolio of relevant protein toppings ranging from globally inspired to all natural to the classics. For menu ideas, insights, and product information, visit us at HormelFoodservice.com/pizza.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

In a bid to beef up its presence in sports arenas and a variety of other large venues, Sodexo will acquire foodservice vendor Centerplate for $675 million.

Sodexo says the deal, which is expected to be finalized by the end of this year, will more than double its global footprint.

Centerplate, which serves as the foodservice operator for a number for stadiums, convention halls and other event spaces, brought in revenues of $998 million for the year ending June 2017, according to Sodexo. Centerplate was purchased five years ago by Olympus Partners, a private-equity company...

Menu Development

Loyola University Maryland took a new approach to all-day breakfast with an egg-focused concept.

Breakfast options were top of mind for students when asked what they would like to see on the menu at the university’s revamped Boulder Garden Cafe. Instead of creating an all-day breakfast station, however, the Baltimore-based dining team went beyond traditional options and created a concept that services all mealparts with eggs.

“It can be somewhat mundane,” says Executive Chef Don Crowther on why the team strayed away from the trendy all-day breakfast. At the eatery’s Sunny...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Kansas has added a retail pass that allows students to purchase one to-go combo meal per day at cafes and markets on campus, the University Daily Kansan reports.

The pass is available on two different meal plans and is geared toward on-the-go students who don’t have the time to sit down and eat at a residence hall.

“It has increased the participation rate,” Jamie Reed, a service assistant for the school’s dining services, told the University Daily Kansan.

Over 1,800 students have used the pass since its debut at the beginning of the semester....

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Minnesota dining team has created a vegan student group in an effort to improve the school’s vegan offerings, Minnesota Daily reports.

The group was created by the school’s foodservice vendor, Aramark, and its campus sustainability coordinator, who is vegan, after receiving numerous complaints from students about the lack of vegan options on campus.

The group will this week host its first meeting, during which members will be able to share feedback and provide solutions to help enhance the school’s vegan offerings. Members will also keep a photo journal...

FSD Resources