Tag Archives: campus foodservice

Alternatives to the College Cafeteria

Last month we told you about The Latest News and Trends for College Foodservices focusing on the ways campuses are working to provide alternatives to the usual cafeteria lines.   This month we’ll take a look at how students are taking dietary matters into their own hands and going outside the traditional food provided on campus.  With alternative kitchens, convenient delivery and even a hands on approach, students are taking it upon themselves (with a little help from outside chefs, restaurants and local farmers) to make sure they’re never caught wondering what’s for dinner.

Sorority/Fraternity Kitchens

Photo from campuscooks.com

Though students living in a Sorority or Fraternity are still located on campus, they often have the distinct advantage of living in a location with its own private kitchen.   Along with this private kitchen usually comes a cook or chef of some sort to provide those living in the house with their meals.  This chef is frequently chosen and paid for by the members of the Sorority/Fraternity.   The downside to this is that it usually also means finding the most affordable person available rather than someone that will provide the healthiest or best tasting meals.   However, one of Central’s own customers, Campus Cooks, is helping to change all of this in over fifty Sorority and Fraternity houses across the country.   Campus Cooks sets itself apart from the average campus cafeteria by providing quality food and kitchen management at a flat per person rate to ensure that students are getting the most out of what little money they have to spend.  The company takes on the responsibility of hiring on-site cooks to make fresh lunches, dinners and snacks for each house.   In order to develop these healthy and creative menus the cooks use feedback from the students living in that particular house so the food is customized their specific tastes and preferences.   This in-house option is also a great alternative for those suffering from food allergies and dietary restrictions because the cook can make meals specifically for these individual to avoid any adverse reactions.  Cooks are even trained to incorporate the newest food trends to keep the meals interesting and nutritious on a daily basis.

Online Ordering from Local Restaurants

Photo from wokwoktulsa.com

While not all students are lucky enough to have a chef cater to their specific tastes, any academic with a little extra cash has the ability to order out.   However, ordering food has never been as easy as it now is with the recently launched Deals4MealsOnline, a concept created by former college students for current college students.  

While attending Seton Hall, founder Kenneth Cucchia and his friends ran into a problem that he was sure others on campus had also encountered…they didn’t know where to order food from.  Cucchia told The Sentonian, “I was just sitting on my couch one day with my roommates, and we were trying to figure out where to go to order some cheap food.  I Google’d it and it took me forever to find a list of places to order from in South Orange (New Jersey), and that’s pretty much where the idea came from.”  This desire for take out inspired Cucchia to solve the problem for years to come by developing Deals4MealsOnline, a site that allows students to search for just about any type of food they’re craving in their area, order online and have it delivered right to their door.  And on this new one-stop food delivery site, students are the only ones to benefit.   Restaurants also reap the benefits of  having the ability to receive online orders at a more afforable price as well as the advantage of targeted advertising on the site and via social media. 

Local Food Programs

Photo from realfoodchallenge.org

Students are not only creating new ways to find meals, they are also growing, selling and cooking the food on many campuses.   Through programs like Farm to College, many students are getting the opportunity to know exactly where their food is coming from by being a part of it in every stage.   Over 150 colleges and universities participate in this program where students can participate in activities like product research, planning gardens, farming, preparing food and even coordinating the purchase and delivery of products to dining halls that are available locally, but not necessarily on-campus.   Although currently the majority of the Farm to College programs are still overseen by campus foodservices or other administrative services many of the programs were initiated by students and at least twelve of the schools programs are currently completely student run.

Photo from gazettenet.com

In addition to growing and preparing food on campus, some students are event selling it for both student and community use.  One example of this is the student-run farmer’s market at the University of Massachusetts (also a participant in the Farm to College program).   This year, three of the schools sustainable living programs joined together to put on the farmer’s market in order to raise awareness and promote farm-to-table living.   According to an article in The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, “In addition to the farmer’s market stand, the Student Farming Enterprise – a six-credit course consisting of two one-semester sections – runs a community supported agriculture (CSA) program.”  These programs allow students, faculty and other community members to receive education on healthy food as well as a trusted local source to buy it from.

What cafeteria alternatives have you seen popping up on campus?   How do they compare with the typical campus cafeteria?

The Latest News and Trends for College Foodservices

College foodservice is an ever-changing industry. Here are some of the latest trends and news about campus food across the country.

The Push for Healthy

Are the days of the traditional “all-you-can-eat” buffet on college campuses over? Well, students are always going to be hungry and have extra meal plan dollars to use,  so they’ll probably never be over.  However, according to the College and University Consumer Trend Report, mentioned in this Food Product Design article, only 28 percent of students are happy with the amount of “healthy” foods they are provided. There has been such a huge push for healthy grade and high schools, so why wouldn’t it trickle over to the college campus? Many college foodservices are going in a healthier direction too, one being Sodexo.  They are mixing it up with healthy and customized Mediterranean food—which seems to have resulted from their own student’s research.

Grab n’ Go

When a student is in a rush between classes, they don’t exactly have the time to sit down and have a meal in the cafeteria, especially if it’s during odd hours.  This is one of the moments where Grab n’ Go’s really get their time to shine, but students are always looking for something quick and different.  After all, one can only have a ham or turkey sandwich with chips everyday for so long before it gets old. Some campuses are mixing up their Grab n’ Go selection, such as Bennington College with menu items like the Chipotle Smoked Turkey and Bacon Wrap, Vegan Hummus Wrap, Protein Salads or Tangy Roast Beef Sandwiches.

Food Trucks

Without a doubt, it’s been the summer of the food truck. They are fast and convenient, making the college campus a perfect place for them.  What makes it even better is they are convenient for students as the truck goes to wherever they are. So you’re not losing the students who don’t feel like walking across campus to eat.  Catering to laziness? …no.  Not necessarily.  You could think of it as being more convenient for those pressed for time, or helping the students out.  (Sitting in an hour and 45 minutes of calculus can be really tiring).  Either way, it’s more money in your pocket.  This Napa Valley Register article talks about Napa Valley College—who due to budget cuts can no longer serve lunch out of its cafeteria and have rolled out a food truck pilot program. The article says, “about six food trucks will be available on campus from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Fifteen food trucks are participating in the program, so the food options will vary each day.”

Social Media

Social media is a great way to inform customers in a quick and timely fashion, not to mention it’s mostly free too. With most students being glued to their phones 24/7, social media is probably one of their preferred methods of being contacted. (Do college students even check their email anymore? And are they going to know about your latest special if it’s only posted at the location…which they may or may not travel to?) Back in February, QSR wrote this article which covered a study saying 95 percent of university food operations use social media in some way. So, if you’re in that 5 percent, you may want to reconsider revamping your marketing campaign a bit. All the different types of social media sites out there can be a bit overwhelming, but that’s where websites like TweetDeck come into play, that can automatically post to several different sites at once.  You can even schedule posts ahead of time and could have a full day’s worth of posting ready to go in 10 minutes before the day really even gets started.  So no more excuses about not having time when a site like TweetDeck will do it for you…..for free.  The students will appreciate it.

What college foodservice trends are you finding?  What resources do you use that everyone should bookmark?