Those of us who attend a lot of conferences have heard an awful lot about Gen-Y lately. These are the 18-to-25-year olds that marketers can’t seem to get enough of and the rest of us tend to talk about as if they are not in the room. Maybe it’s the headphones.

According to self-appointed Gen-Y Guy public speaker Jason Dorsey, there are several good reasons for us to pay careful attention to these folks. For one, in terms of simple numbers, they are huge: 79 million people or roughly 22 percent of the U.S. population fall into this age group. Some projections indicate that sometime around 2017, the spending power of this generation will exceed that of the baby-boomers for the first time. Who saw that coming?

While sweeping generalizations about any particular group of people should be assiduously avoided, especially in print, I feel pretty safe asserting that these folks tend to be younger. And, it turns out, that there are tons of them to be found on college and university campuses. All of this makes our annual issue highlighting college and university foodservice trends particularly meaningful.

For a wider look at some of the innovative way today’s college foodservice operators keep rolling with the changes, please read Jim Sukenik’s Consultant’s Viewpoint article on page 18. A foodservice industry veteran, Jim looks at the way operators in this space continue to embrace the never ending challenge of innovating for their customers. Further, take a look at the story about how the University of Georgia’s Bolton Dining Commons leverages amazing architecture in a multiplatform servery to transform the dining experience in the heart of this bustling campus.

Gen-Y makes up the bulk of the customer base college and university foodservice operations serve. And the ways that these foodservice operators have learned to interact with, cater to, and learn from these young people is important for all of us with an interest in doing the same in the future.