These trends and issues, among others, are poised to impact college and university foodservice in the 2017-18 school year.
A growing call for convenience
With today’s students placing a higher premium on ease than in years past, colleges continue to lean into anytime, anywhere dining. Many are forging supplemental paths to meet students where they are, giving kiosks, delivery, food trucks and third-party services like Tapingo a try. As these off-premise options continue to grow, convenient eatery locations are less important to students than they once were.
As enrollments grow at many colleges and universities, dining facilities are seeking unique solutions to keep pace with the uptick and reduce throttling in serving lines. Some schools enable students to track dining hall crowding via mobile apps, while the dining department at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., leans on one resource it has in spades—students—allowing those studying industrial design to develop potential overcrowding relievers.
Plant-based items and the need for ‘clean’
With students demanding more plant-based choices and greater transparency when it comes to sustainability, schools are amping up their offerings in the plant-focused arena. Last spring, one dining hall at New York University temporarily replaced its usual menu with a vegan one to see how a plant-based dining hall would perform on campus.
Meanwhile, so-called cleaner menus continue to gain momentum. Rutgers University at New Brunswick in New Jersey is in the process of revamping its food offerings to include more healthy items across its dining halls, a process it began last spring and aims to finish up mid-school year.
As legislation around such issues as secure scheduling, paid family leave and a higher minimum wage continues to make waves across the country, some foodservice departments are facing the possibility of shelling out more funds to make payroll or losing certain flexibilities when it comes to scheduling shifts. Technology is often stepping in to address labor or cost concerns; in one notable instance, Orange County Community College in Middletown, N.Y., this summer replaced its entire foodservice staff with kiosks.