Current Trends in the World of College and University Foodservice


When it comes to foodservice in the post-pandemic world, equipment matters. College and university foodservice departments face competition with apps and restaurants used by students when attending classes virtually. Knowing how to navigate those challenges best can give a campus dining hall an advantage.

College and University Foodservice Evolution

The foodservice industry on campuses across the country has come full circle. It has survived and evolved through lockdowns during the 2020 pandemic and a staggered re-opening across university campuses since.

In the third quarter of 2021, even as new COVID-19 variants came onto the scene, the industry saw better-than-expected growth, due to more students returning to in-person learning.

The disruptions of the pandemic were problematic for the industry, particularly on college campuses. Students that stayed in dorms during the pandemic became accustomed to utilizing apps and take-out from local restaurants.

During that time, many colleges and universities took the initiative to improve their dining hall and food court experiences. In some instances, significant expenditures were made during the pandemic to ensure students would return to expanded and up-to-date foodservice experiences. Some expanded their seating capacity and added quality commercial equipment. Others upgraded to accept orders via mobile phone apps and offered checkout at non-manned kiosks. New menu stations, such as ice cream counters, bakeries, and sushi bars, found their way onto some campuses.

College Foodservice Trends

The shift in campus dining halls may very well bring an upward trend in sales. Some campuses have seen success in expanded their offerings to certified halal and kosher foods.

Changes like these may facilitate the need for additional equipment, as well as closely overseeing preparation methods and ingredients.

Some campuses already offered kosher delis but decided to kick it up a notch. To offer certified kosher foods in the dining hall where most students took their meals, decisions were made to add kosher plant-based dishes to their already vegetarian offerings.

While an eclectic variety in foodservice offerings has been in short supply, colleges and universities are saying ‘no more’ as trends show them putting the missing link into place in rolling out a variety of options.

Foodservice Focus on Automation and Robots

To stay in line with the latest trends in modern foodservice, automation is a must. It helps to address labor shortages, reduces workplace accidents, and minimizes downtime and costs associated with accidents.

Pairing an atmosphere of excitement and variety with a historical setting can draw visitors in for the overall experience. Unexpected touches will create interest and repeat customers.

Some campuses have installed pick-up cabinets to reinvent their take-out options. A PUC system can reduce labor expenses and food waste. It also assists in prioritizing staffing needs based on when orders are scheduled.

Automation makes work easier for the staff and provides convenience to customers. Staff can fulfill orders, placing them in the pick-up cabinets on the staffing side. The system alerts the customer that their meal is ready, and they pick it up from the outside door. Simple and efficient.

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