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The state of C&U foodservice: Tracking menu trends

College operators stay on top of the latest trends while contending with rising costs and supply chain challenges.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Supply chain challenges continue to impact college dining, with 85% of FSD survey respondents reporting difficulty with procuring products.

A majority of respondents (62%) say that they’ve turned to local farmers and suppliers to get the products they need, while others, such as the dining team at San Diego State University in California, are combating product shortages by cross-utilizing products in multiple menu items.

They’re also keeping an eye on rising costs. At Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., Senior Associate Director of Dining Brian Grove says they have been removing items that don’t meet the team’s “food cost parameters” and are looking for lower-cost substitutes.

“[We’re] continuing to look for alternatives that are cheaper, but that do not diminish quality,” he says.

Incorporating dining trends

Just over a quarter of survey respondents (26%) say they see plant-based cuisine as the top dining trend in the college segment, and many are looking to expand vegan and vegetarian options on campus.

At Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., the dining team introduced plant-based egg substitutes and seitan to menus last school year. The University of Dayton in Ohio also leaned into the plant-based trend by creating a plant-based menu station named the Green Life.

Read more: Liberty Dining launches plant-forward, gluten-free food truck

Global cuisines were listed as the top trend by 22% of respondents. Last year at Boston College in Newton, Mass., the dining team worked with the school’s Japan Club to roll out a Chicken Katsu dish as part of its Global Flavors program. (The program teams up with student groups to create different global menu items.) This year, they’re planning to continue expanding the initiative to introduce more global cuisines.

What’s next on menus

College dining operators are working through procurement and labor obstacles to keep their menus fresh and exciting. Here’s a peek at some dishes they’re debuting this year.

“Acai bowls, dragonfruit bowls and bubble tea.”

Jim Meinecke
Director of Residential Dining
Penn State University
University Park, Pa.

“Street food and local styled BBQ.”

Chin Hong Chua
Resident District Manager
Texas State University
San Marcos, Texas

“Customizable, international bowls and cook to order stations.”

Kris Solt
Assistant Director of Dining Services
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, N.J.

Back to the full 2022 State of C&U Foodservice report.

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