Food procurement challenges, safety issues and staff shortages have all required schools to adapt their menus to the pandemic era.
At Washington University in St. Louis, the dining team eliminated its self-service options and introduced new technology, such as special mobile-ordering websites for students with dietary restrictions. Meanwhile, Sally the Salad Robot replaced its salad bars and more.
Berea College in Berea, Ky., also eliminated self-service and is introducing new options this school year to keep diners happy. Among them is a new “power bowl” bar that gives guests the ability to customize vegan and vegetarian bowls, says Dining Manager Caitlin McClanahan.
Other schools, including Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash., are streamlining menus and focusing on speed of service while boosting quality.
“Menu development focused on doing less better is an area that I believe our industry will continue to focus on,” says Director of Dining and Catering Dean Masuccio. “In addition, the use of technology, especially self-order and mobile ordering platforms, will only grow from here on.”
Catering goes mobile
Catering teams have also had to think outside the box. North Carolina State University in Raleigh, for example, came up with a new menu filled with portable options.
“We introduced something called Wolfpacks for our catering events that have gone over well,” says Jennifer Gilmore, director of marketing for the school’s dining program.
The individually wrapped selections, such as grilled chicken tacos, a rainbow quinoa bowl and a banana pudding tart, use compostable packaging and change things up from “the typical sandwich, chips and a cookie," Gilmore says.
While supply shortages remain a challenge, that didn’t stop some schools from introducing new menu items. Here’s a look at a few dishes that made their debut in recent months.
Chicken tikka masala
Boise Bible College
Whole pizzas to-go
University of Rhode Island
Vegan ramen bar
New Haven, Conn.
Seared duck breast sandwich with fennel mayonnaise
North Carolina State University