Creating a Successful College and University Foodservice Program

Published on: 04/16/2018 in College & University

C&U - Creating a Successful

Today’s college and university students have high expectations when it comes to their food. From locally sourced and organic ingredients to dietary restrictions to the growing demand for convenience,1 C&U foodservice directors have their work cut out for them.

As a C&U foodservice director, how can you leverage today’s trends to satisfy students?

The Menu

Millennials are transforming not only C&U dining halls, but also the foodservice industry as a whole. They seek sustainable, ethical food choices when dining out and have made descriptors such as “natural,” “whole,” and “organic” mainstream must-haves for menus.2 According to Datassential, 65% of today’s students want healthy options, 59% want seasonal ingredients and 49% want hormone-free protein.1

Beef is experiencing a significant decline in consumption rates. Instead, millennials and Gen Xers are very likely to buy poultry for health-related reasons, according to a Mintel report, which found that two in five 18- to 24- year old shoppers bought poultry to increase their protein intake.3

The trend for organic ingredients continues to grow.4 Organic food consumption is greatest among the younger generations, with nearly half of millennials (49%) choosing organic for at least half of their food/beverage purchases.5 Additionally, more than half of millennials (51%) indicate they feel better about themselves when they purchase organic products.5

Foodservice operators continue to update their menus to appeal to students with dietary restrictions. With the growing concern around gluten, the demand for gluten-free menu items has swept the foodservice industry. Because of this, it’s no surprise that 79% of C&U operators expect gluten-free to continue to grow in menu offerings.4 Kent State University has recently taken its gluten-free efforts even further, becoming the first university to open an entirely gluten-free dining hall.6

Perdue Foodservice understands the importance of serving healthy ingredients to satisfy students’ needs, which is why you can feel confident turning to Perdue to meet students’ protein demands. The PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER portfolio offers a full selection of flavorful, All Vegetarian Fed chicken, turkey and select beef products that are made with high-quality ingredients. For operators looking to integrate organic proteins into their menus, PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® Organic chicken is available nationwide.* And for those foodservice directors seeking gluten-free options, Harvestland offers a variety of gluten-free items, including PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® Gluten-Free Breaded Chicken Breast Chunks and Gluten-Free Breaded Chicken Breast Tenders.

The Service

While food is important, service also impacts student dining decisions. Customization is a major point of interest, with 74% of students desiring build-your- own options.4 Meanwhile, 67% of students like the appeal of self-service buffets, as well as all-you- can eat concepts.4

College students are often balancing busy schedules, so convenience is key when it comes to dining. Meal plans can make on-campus dining a more convenient option; however, as enrollment increases, the percentage of students on a meal plan often decreases.7 Many of your colleagues in foodservice dining are coming up with new ways to engage students and boost on-campus dining. A recent survey reported that C&U operators see the greatest opportunity for growth in catering (63%), mobile ordering (40%) and delivery (35%). Many operators are looking to partner with a third-party delivery service to alleviate long waits and labor strains.8

Without a doubt, healthy food options and convenient formats will continue to drive student decisions on where to dine. Partners that share students’ values, plus a dash of creativity, will help C&U foodservice directors be successful well into the future.

*HARVESTLAND® Organic Frozen Chicken available nationwide; HARVESTLAND® Organic Fresh Chicken available in limited northeastern markets

1 Datassential, The Keynote Report: Colleges & Universities, Jan, 2016
2 Jones-Mueller, Anita, “The Millennial Opportunity: Redefining Healthy,” Restaurant Nutrition, May 19, 2016,
3 Swartz, Leah, Health Conscious Millennials Prefer Lean Proteins Over Red Meat, Millennial Marketing, Apr. 2015,
4 FoodService Director, “2016 C&U Census: What’s Trending on Campus,” Jul. 15, 2016,
5 Mintel, Over Half of Consumers Think Organic Labeling Is an Excuse to Charge More, May 13, 2015,
6 FoodService Director, “First Gluten Free Dining Hall Debuts,” Sep. 12, 2016,
7 FoodService Director, “2015 C&U Census: Higher Learning,” Jul. 13, 2015,
8 Killian, Kelly, “6 Growth Opportunities for C&U Operators,” FoodService Director, 2016,