3 ways to keep campus coffee lovers loyal

Coffee is one of the most competitive segments in the foodservice business. National chains are vying for java aficionados’ business alongside independent coffee houses that serve up the latest specialty coffee drinks with a shot of attitude, and if a college dining service wants to keep students from straying off campus to satisfy a caffeine craving, it needs to up its game.

students campus coffee bar

What appeals to students? According to Technomic’s 2017 College & University report, 32% prefer to take their morning caffeine in the form of hot regular coffee, while 19% seek out specialty coffee drinks and another 15% go for iced/blended coffee drinks.

More than a third of students (36%) say it’s important for schools to offer well-known brands of coffee, and 31% prefer the ability to customize a food or beverage.

The report also found that only 38% of students are more likely to source their coffee and other nonalcoholic beverages on campus versus off, which means that offering an optimized coffee bar is an opportunity for operators. Here are a few strategies can help perk up on-campus coffee sales.


Customization is a way of life for millennials and Gen Zers—and coffee is no exception. It makes sense to offer add-ins that allow students to make their drinks truly their own, such as a variety of flavored creamers—both dairy and non-dairy—flavored syrups, toppings such as drizzles, sprinkles and whipped cream, seasonal flavors and extra espresso shots. The possibilities are endless, and some add-ins can be self-serve to keep a lid on labor.

By offering these options for customers to customize their drinks, premium drinks are at their fingertips and are more convenient than ever.


Sustainably sourced coffee is particularly appropriate for college-age coffee drinkers, so it’s smart business to purchase and promote coffees that are verified as sustainable.

Coffee brands that participate in sustainability initiatives—or are third-party certified to recognized standards such as Rainforest Alliance, UTZ or Fair Trade—can be a big seller for college students who are looking for that environmentally-friendly edge from the brands they buy.


To make coffee more accessible, consider a mobile coffee cart. At Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., a group of enterprising students dissatisfied with the campus coffee offering hatched a plan for Brew Bike, a custom-built tricycle outfitted with kegs that dispense cold brew coffee and iced tea. It rotates through various locations throughout the day. These new types of drinks are part of what consumers look for in their coffee shop experience.

Competing with these off-campus alternatives sometimes means expanding the menu beyond the standard drip coffee, espresso drinks, teas and hot chocolate. By offering products like cold brew and flavored creamers, operators can offer customers the unique coffee shop experience that they want without investing money or remodeling the space. Elevating the existing coffee bar offerings to be more competitive is key, and one of the ways to stay competitive is by offering this convenience.

Creating an elevated on-campus coffee experience is simple. By offering some of the same features as a café—like customization, sustainability and convenience—operators can enjoy the boost in business from consumers who want a premium drink, all without having to invest in a full-service program.

Contact your DanoneWave Away From Home representative to learn how our Coffee Bar Experts® can help you optimize your coffee program. Call 888.620.9910 or visit

This post is sponsored by Danone Away From Home