Keeping the foodservice equipment marketplace up to date with the latest menu and concept trends.


With operator budgets remaining tight due to a variety of economic factors, the temptation remains to buy used or lesser-known foodservice equipment in order to save a few bucks. Here are a few tips to help foodservice operators tell the good opportunities from the bad.

The campus of the College of William & Mary (W&M) in Williamsburg, Va., is big on historic charm. Chartered in 1693 by King William III and Queen Mary II of England, it's the second oldest college in America, it touts the oldest college building in the United States, and its Colonial Campus section has been restored to its eighteenth century appearance. But it's also a modern, progressive campus in every sense, including its dining program, which stands out in part for its firm commitment to serving students with food allergies and other special dietary needs.

With consumers remaining hungry for frozen desserts, a growing number of foodservice operators continue to add these sweet treats to their repertoire. And like other segments of the foodservice industry, restaurants offering ice cream and frozen yogurt continue to use locally sourced and sustainably produced ingredients to appeal to customers' complex palates.

Nearly 40 percent of incoming UCLA freshmen in the 2010-2011 school year were Asian or Pacific Islanders, a core demographic that Peter Angelis, assistant vice chancellor for housing and hospitality services, felt wasn't being adequately served by the school's foodservice program. Students could always choose from a handful of Asian fusion dishes, but they weren't the authentic, home-style foods that those students craved and that so many others raised in culturally diverse Southern California were used to eating in the area's many ethnic restaurants.

Sweeping changes in the last few years have affected all members of the foodservice industry. That includes manufacturers' reps, a group that has especially had to adapt to these changes — not to grow, but just to stay in business.

Sales at the national burger chain restaurant in the University of California-Santa Barbara student union had been declining for years, so Director of UCen Dining Services Sue Hawkins decided to pull the plug and try something new. Burgers and fries were still in the cards, but Hawkins felt the time was right to kick that formula up a notch and tap into a growing sustainability movement at UCSB.

Reese Travis and his business partners were looking for a unique food concept that they could bring to Oklahoma. After considering creating a new chain, Travis went back to one that had already impressed him.

Big ideas are the order of the day at UMass Amherst Dining Services. How big? Within the past two years, the department twice propelled the University of Massachusetts flagship campus into the Guinness Book of World Records by producing both the world's largest sushi roll and a record-setting 4,010-pound stir fry. The school hosts the largest campus foodservice event in the nation with its annual Taste of UMass, which this year featured 70 food booths, entertainment, celebrity guest appearances, an "Ultimate Cupcake War", and UMass Idol and Dance Dance Revolution contests.

It should be as simple as it sounds. Turn something on when you need it. Turn it off when you don't. Yet for decades kitchen workers have done exactly the opposite. In fact, even the most prestigious of culinary schools have taught future cooks to fire up the grills the moment they walk in the restaurant door, even if service doesn't begin for hours.

Demand for vegetarian and vegan items on campus continues to rise and most colleges and universities now incorporate a variety of meatless meal options into their menus. But the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton has taken one big Texas-sized step further: Last fall, it opened Mean Greens, a dedicated vegan dining hall thought to be the first of its kind in the nation at a large public university.

As investment bankers in New York City, Helen Yung and Jan Wichayanuparp were afforded many opportunities to travel and eat great food at high-end restaurants. While it seemed like they had it all, the 9/11 tragedy was a wake-up call for both to follow their real passion.

From its broad sustainability initiatives to its designated peanut-sensitive dining hall, from its kosher meals to halal meat alternatives, and from its partnerships with celebrity chefs and the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) to its strong commitment to local and organic foods (40 percent of purchases), Stanford Dining has for many years and on many levels been on the cutting edge of campus feeding. Its new Arrillaga Family Dining Commons and Performance Dining program, however, take Stanford's knack for setting trends to new levels.

Want to check out some of the most exiting things happening in foodservice today? Head back to college. Not to the classroom but to the cafeteria. One quick look around the dining facilities at leading schools large and small today confirms that they look nothing like your father's, mother's, or unless you're fresh out, even your own college cafeteria.

Located in picturesque Burlington, the University of Vermont (UVM) is a leader on many sustainability fronts: One of the first universities to end the sale of bottled water, UVM's Sodexo-operated dining program also touts extensive pre- and post-consumer recycling, trayless dining, composting of food scraps, a student-run organic garden, steadily increasing purchases of locally produced "real" foods, sustainable seafood, biodegradable disposables and a partnership that recycles nearly 200 gallons of used fryer oil into biofuel each month. In early 2011, the school added another important element to its sustainability program: Eco-Ware, a reusable takeout container initiative that, after extensive pilot testing, appears to be taking hold.

An independent liberal arts college in Brunswick, Maine, Bowdoin College takes its motto, "The College and the Common Good," to heart in all departments, including and perhaps especially in dining services. Known for high quality that consistently lands it at or near the top of the Princeton Review's annual ranking of best college food, Bowdoin's dining program touts not only great eats but a pacesetting, comprehensive portfolio of sustainability initiatives as well.

In its first incarnation as a bakery, Anne Walker and Kris Hoogerhyde's operation was commissioned solely to create packaged baked goods for its sister company, Bi-Rite Market, an independent supermarket.