College Foodservice: Innovative by Design

For so many members of my generation, the lasting image of college foodservice remains a less than positive one. We entered meal periods hoping for the best but never truly knowing what we would get. Naturally, when looking at today's college foodservice environment, we can't help but marvel at the progress this industry segment continues to make.

Back in the day, college foodservice operators simply provided sustenance for the body, while the educators fed the mind. The two generally operated on parallel paths. In fact, during my time at DePaul University it was pretty rare to see members of the faculty and staff participating in meal periods. And nobody could blame them. As students, if we could have afforded to eat elsewhere we would have.

For the most part, though, those days are long gone. Today's college foodservice operator focuses on education, engagement and enrichment almost as much as the food. (See Feeding a Better College Experience.)

College foodservice operators have no choice but to adopt this approach. That's because foodservice represents a key amenity for today's students and their parents. Furthermore, today's college campuses feature more diverse populations than ever and that will remain the case for the foreseeable future. (See Lenny Condenzio's Consultant's Viewpoint.)

A Technomic study on college foodservice shows some of the unique challenges today's operators face: 49 percent of college and university students avoid some type of meat or animal products; more students are price-sensitive off-campus (58 percent) than on-campus (46 percent) and 54 percent of students say it's important to eat healthy and pay attention to nutrition.

Navigating such a challenging and changing operating environment requires more than skill and education. It requires innovative culinary stars and up-and-coming managers who bring fresh ideas and energy to their schools' dining programs. And beginning on page 40 we proudly introduce you to 12 rising stars in the college and university foodservice galaxy. Through their efforts and vision, these individuals continue to make foodservice an engaging and appealing aspect of the college life.

As you've likely guessed by now, this issue drips with content from the college and university segment. We do this for a variety of reasons. First, this segment remains on the frontlines dealing with some of the most pressing issues of the day. Second, college students eventually become consumers and will bring their eating habits and preferences with them when patronizing commercial foodservice operations in their post-graduate years.

Despite it being the middle of summer, there's much for all of us to learn from this segment that remains very innovative by design.