As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and look ahead towards students back on campus, 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 they create, have 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 the food stories we wish 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 on campuses, are being introduced within a number of universities globally, enabling the onsite growth of fresh, traceable produce year-round to help feed students.
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