Sensible and Sustainable College Cafeteria Cutbacks

August 21, 2009

Sensible and Sustainable College Cafeteria Cutbacks

Another story about dwindling bank accounts, budget cutbacks, and more worker layoffs is sure to depress your summer mood - but not this one, because university and college campus eateries, the centers of innovations and fresh (sometimes radical!) approaches, are discovering exciting ways to deal with diminishing endowments and the related cutbacks. It comes as no surprise that student interest and satisfaction ranks as top priority for food service operations and suppliers, but what budget friendly options does this trendy audience crave?

As epicenters of imaginative consumers, campuses are home to a variety of proactive student organizations and groups that keep up to date (and somehow ahead) of the most current global issues. Perseverance around these issues - currently food ranks pretty high - defines this consumer population. In terms of guaranteeing shopper retention and attention, suppliers, retailers and university food service operators need to understand and embrace these issues.

Campus consumer's food service, concerns, demands, and interests:

Farming on Campus? Students are absolutely interested in fresh and local produce, and not just in its whole fruit or vegetable form, but fresh and local used as ingredients in prepared food offerings. Often, locally grown or on campus farmed produce/animal products are a more budget friendly option; in addition to this, cooking food service meals in-house, from scratch is also easier on the pocketbook. As well as being more budget friendly, in-house preparations from local ingredients adds to the excitement as chefs and cooks are able to create interesting menu options based on availability.

Students are currently also more likely to cook at home; this of course depends on kitchen availability in both on and off-campus housing facilities. Access to student and locally grown grocery items is sure to be a big hit, and on-campus gardens undoubtedly create a great sense of community.

Another issue on the campus plate? Surprise! Surprise! The environment. Sustainable eco-friendly food service efforts are noticed and commended by students. Students are interested in knowing that cafeterias are recycling and have student-recycling options available. Some dining halls have gone trayless to decrease water and cleaning product consumption, and others are using compostable utensils and cups; both receive high marks from students. Green initiatives are also inline with a tighter budget; decreasing waste and the unnecessary use of cleaning products saves money.

Another issue to be aware of is special diets and allergies. Proper labeling and access to ingredient information is key and undoubtedly boosts sales. The popularity of provisional markets is up, and clear labeling makes it easy for students to grab items on the go.

Remember, a reduced budget doesn't mean you should cut quality and choice. Instead, work on effectiveness and efficiency, while still guaranteeing value.

Campuses also provide great insight into trends that are sure to hit the high street.  So if you aren't in the business of supplying university campuses, you can still learn a few things from our country's sorority girls and frat boys.