Foodservice companies must rise to the challenge of feeding diverse student populations with discerning palates amid transparent and safe protocols. Prospective students now carefully consider the quality of campus dining along with academic offerings, and astute schools are wise to the fact that food, and the culture and community it can create, has become a powerful recruiting tool.
Modern campus foodservice does much more than feed hungry students. The fundamental role that dining plays has evolved to be as much about building community and delivering experiences as about offering nourishment, nutritional wellbeing and ethical consideration.
When planning kitchens and the foodservice offer, we must start by looking at the experience and food stories we want to tell before moving to the functional aspects. One key factor is a desire to create a neighbourhood vibe through utilising, in part, micro restaurants with a heightened focus on the aesthetic value of the facility.
A key consideration is that Gen Z students demand food that is fresh, authentic, ethical, sustainable, nutritious and prepared to order. Ease of ordering and speed of service are important; apps, kiosks, mobile ordering and venues designed to accommodate express pickup and grab-and-go are now part of the consideration for every project.
Further, a review of the supply chain and consideration of buying locally – where menus can highlight more seasonal, local produce along with organic, healthy and allergen-free dishes – is beneficial. On-site vertical farms, or controlled environmental agriculture utilising shipping containers, are being introduced on campuses within a number of universities globally, enabling the onsite growth of fresh, traceable produce year-round to help feed students.