College and university dining services are adapting to the changing tastes and eating habits of students. Listening to what students are asking for has become an important part of the decision-making process for this segment.

Today, the college and university foodservice segment is facing more competition than ever. With an ever-growing number of food delivery services and more opportunities for grab ‘n’ go eating, students have an increased number of food options available to them. So, to be successful, college/university foodservice operations have to think creatively – and really listen to what their customers want. Here are just some of the ways college/university operators are thriving.

Rethinking Classics

Replacing tried-and-true favorites with some updated, more nutritionally sound alternatives is proving popular at some colleges. For example, the 24/7 Study at Hedrick at the University of California, Los Angeles, makes all its burgers in house. Its traditional 100 percent beef and poultry burgers have been replaced with a blend of 70 percent meat with grains and vegetables for the other 30 percent. At Harvard University Dining Services in Cambridge, Mass., the chili bar options include a sweet potato and red quinoa chili.

Teaching the Basics

Somewhat surprisingly, for a generation that grew up with celebrity chefs and food competition shows all over television, many college students don’t know how to cook. To remedy that (and to keep them eating on campus), many colleges have started cooking classes or set up demonstration kitchens. The University of Colorado Boulder’s demo kitchen, called Demonstration, features 18 induction burners on which students can hone their culinary skills.  At the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., students on the school’s dining plan can sign up for such culinary classes as “Plants on the Plate” and “Comfort Food Makeover.” The cost for the class is equivalent to four swipes of the student’s menu plan card.

Listening to Students

To serve students more effectively, some colleges are directly involving them in the foodservice decision-making process. The University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Dining and Culinary Services department has hired students to serve on its advisory board. The board members’ job is to get feedback from other students as to what could be improved about campus dining. The board meets every two weeks and on the alternate weeks, student board members meet with representatives of Dining and Culinary Services to sample new products or discuss menu ideas. Peter Testory, director of Dining and Culinary Services, says that the program is helpful “to insure changes we’re implementing are in line with [students’] wants and needs.”

Listening to Customers

That concept of listening is vital to any successful partnership and that’s just one of the reasons why Hatco has become such an integral partner with many college/university foodservice operations. The team at Hatco are experts in listening to what their customers need and then delivering products that go above and beyond those needs.

Hatco products are particularly well suited to the college/university segment, says Lorne Deacon, Director of Global Marketing and Product Development at Hatco. “Students are demanding high-quality food at precise temperatures,” he says. “They want decentralized locations. It’s not one ‘mess hall’ or one food and dining service anymore. Students want variety, they want unique foods, they want to experience other cultures and cuisines. Hatco has equipment — whether it’s a merchandiser, an induction unit, heated wells or cold wells — that offer operators flexibility to hold products at different temperatures throughout the day. And since merchandising at universities is incredibly strong, we can powdercoat all our equipment and do it in any color you want.”

To find out more about how Hatco can help colleges, universities and many other cafeteria and buffet-style operations serve more efficiently, view Hatco Cafeteria Buffet Solutions.

Content sponsored by Hatco.