3 ways to boost campus coffee participation

student with coffee to-go

From Keurig.

It’s not news that caffeine powers much of the college experience, with late nights and long classes being the norm for many. But on-campus coffee is seeing a lot of changes lately, catering more to the needs and desires of students who are busier than ever. To meet their on-the-go lifestyles, students are grabbing their java at a variety of locations — at non-chain coffee or beverage cafés (56%), coffee/beverage chains (54%), and at school cafeterias or dining halls (27%), according to Technomic’s 2017 College & University report.

For foodservice directors who want to increase participation in coffee programs, ensuring students’ preferences and needs are met is key. Here are a few helpful tips for achieving that goal.

Offer upgraded customization options 

According to Technomic’s 2017 College & University report, 36% of students (slightly higher among students who have a meal plan) say that it’s important or extremely important for their school to offer well-known brands of coffee. This could be due to brand loyalty — having tried a certain coffee and enjoyed it.

It could also have to do with wanting to customize their coffee and knowing which brands offer the flavors of coffee, syrups, and creamers they prefer. “Students today are geared toward options that allow them to make their own products,” says Candace Gracik, senior operations director with Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, who chose Keurig’s single-serve coffee program to satisfy student demand in a new market coffee station opening this month.

Operators who make sure to stock a variety of customizable options, including flavors, espresso shots, and toppings like whipped cream or chocolate/caramel drizzles, could enjoy a boost in coffee sales thanks to the upgraded, premium choices available. Consumers can also enjoy customization through variety — Keurig® single-serve brewers offer a wide selection of premium flavored coffees, including seasonal flavors and limited-time offerings, all without adding coffee waste.

Experiment with off-premise and delivery

Off-premise and delivery are two big opportunities for on-campus foodservice. In fact, these are some of the main drivers for students to seek out food and beverage options off-campus. Twenty-seven percent of students say they visit off-campus foodservice locations because carryout or drive-thru service is offered, while 24% say they do so because delivery is available according to Technomic’s College & University report.

While coffee may not seem like it would be a popular delivery option, think about times like final exams when students barely have time to make a peanut butter sandwich, let alone walk across campus to go grab coffee. With delivery, they (and all their friends at the library) can get their favorite pick-me-up drinks delivered. Carryout coffee is also ideal for students who are hosting a morning study group or extracurricular club; they can call ahead with an order and pick it up on the way to the meeting.

Set up shop in small places for grab-and-go needs

About a quarter (24%) of students say that having more grab-and-go options would encourage them to purchase a meal plan, according to Technomic’s College & University report. Coffee kiosks, rather than full-blown cafeterias, can help with this — the food and drink can be sourced from the cafeterias but can be set up in places like the lobby of a dorm or a busy school building. There, students can have the opportunity to grab a cup of hot coffee, a yogurt parfait, or fresh fruit, for example. For instance, at Lamar University, new Keurig stations have been set up in the campus’ new student center, allowing for a quick and easy option for students as well as university workers.

“It’s maximizing convenience for students and faculty here,” Gracik says. “Just like you see with McDonalds or other venues in airports, the cashierless or person-less options are more productive in today’s market with young students. In moving forward with the generation, we’re geared toward this.”

Appealing to today’s college students is all about tapping into unmet needs. From customization to off-premise and delivery services to more convenient grab-and-go options and locations, foodservice directors have a lot of opportunity to increase coffee sales.

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