College & University Dining Food Trends – The U.S. landscape according to college students and foodservice operators (wants, needs, and opinions of student dining)
Catering is the most offered dining service and is a considerable part of C&U’s foodservice business. Nearly 60% offer c-stores and an additional 44% offer grab-n-go kiosks. More unique dining operations (such as allergy-specific dining locations) are not uncommon and are offered by over one-in-seven universities.
The majority of universities offer a meal plan and most meal plans have at least some flexibility. Partial meal based plans are the most common although set dollar amount plans and set item plans are at about one-third of operators.
Although one quarter have no interest in adding additional dining options (likely because if they wanted to they already have), of those not currently offering, one fifth are interested in adding food trucks and 15% are interested in dorm room delivery.
Italian, Mexican, and Chinese are the most currently offered cuisines. Southern U.S. and Tex-Mex are offered by three quarters. Indian and Moroccan have the highest interest in being added to menus. Jamaican and Irish are the most likely cuisine types to have been previously offered (perhaps because they are most often menued for special occasions or theme dinners).
According to students, all-campus dining halls are the most likely option available on campus, although c-stores, QSR chains, and grab-and-go kiosks are also somewhat commonly available to students.
Students say they are familiar with the options available on their campus and they are largely satisfied. Familiarity and satisfaction do vary somewhat by the type of school students attend.
Students most frequently use dorm hall dining – likely because it is convenient and often part of a required meal plan. All campus dining halls are also frequently used, and although much less available, students who have access to dorm room food delivery use it frequently. Fast food restaurants are generally used weekly and may be considered more of an indulgence than a go-to option.
Across nearly 5,000 colleges and universities, operators purchase nearly $7 billion in food and beverage, with student consumers spending over $17 billion per year on campus dining. Learn what inspires students’ on-campus and retail food purchasing decisions and understand operators’ plans and processes, respond to their existing needs, and uncover opportunities for satisfying future wants. Topical Keynotes combine the opinions and behaviors of consumers with insights from operators polled using Datassential's OPERA panel, the industry's largest, with over 30,000 restaurant, retail and on-site operators.
Profile of the C&U Operator
Who they are by demographic and experience in addition to how, what, and why they purchase, as well as what they desire in the purchasing process, and how students influence their initiatives and choices.
Opportunities at C&U Beyond Traditional On-campus Dining
We explore what operators menu and how they innovate, their wants, gaps, motivations and challenges, additional foodservice and retail measures beyond traditional campus dining employed to increase revenue streams, and the competition from off-campus options.
Operator Current & Future Offerings and Processes
Including cuisine types and specific menu items, menu planning, dining hall and retail re-designs and renovations, equipment and technology usage, and marketing methodologies.
Role of the Student in the Campus Dining and On-site Retail Environment
With input from current students, we review student dining behaviors, satisfaction levels, perceptions, expectations, and primary motivators (besides hunger!).
Student Views on Food
We examine student dining and spending habits along with their food attitudes, how and where they source information for their dining options, and how the C&U experience shapes future food preferences and choices.
Datassential, a Chicago-based food industry research and consulting firm, brings clients real-world information on foodservice and consumer packaged goods in the U.S. and around the world. The company’s services, including its extensive MenuTrends database, provide in-depth reporting on trends in menu offerings, flavor profiles, ingredients and preparations. Datassential helps operators, retailers, and suppliers understand and capitalize on these important trends.