In this edition of 5 Things, Food Management highlights five things you may have missed recently about developments affecting onsite dining.
Here’s your list for today:
- Cost savings may make remote work policies permanent
Large influential companies and even some major healthcare systems in Houston have integrated hybrid and remote work, and that approach may not change even in an economic downturn that could give employers more leverage to dictate where employees work because they may find the cost savings from remote work too compelling to turn back now, says Parker Harvey, principal economist at Gulf Coast Workforce Board. On average, employers are saving an estimated $11,000 annually on every employee who works remotely at least half of the time when accounting for reduced real estate costs, lower absenteeism rates, less turnover and greater productivity, according to an analysis by the San Diego-based consultancy Global Workplace Analytics. As a result of those savings, if companies slow their pace of hiring or even lay off people during a possible recession, their remote working arrangements might not change much, Harvey said.
- Food inflation, wage increases driving up meal plan prices
According to new data, the cost of eating on campus is only getting pricier, with many campuses hiking meal plan prices. The average college in the U.S. charges roughly $4,500 for an eight-month meal plan, which averages out to $18.75 per day for three meals, according to nonprofit education news outlet The Hechinger Report. For example, last November, Virginia Tech announced that Spring semester meal plans would see a $100-$215 price increase from Fall, while earlier this month, the University of Pittsburgh's Board of Trustees unanimously approved a $2.7 billion operating budget which would include a 4% price increase for meal plans in the 2022-2023 academic year, and Clemson announced a 4.5% increase for dining. The reasons almost uniformly are the same: food inflation and higher wages.
- So far, inflation isn’t affecting sports concessions per-caps
Eighteen-dollar beers at sports events have made the news intermittently this year, clear signs of costs being passed on to customers, but that hasn’t slowed fans’ live sports event per-cap spending, which is up roughly 15%-20% from 2019, the last comparable year with fans, says Delaware North Sportservice President Jamie Obletz.
“That’s a consumer today that recognizes that inflation is everywhere, and they almost expect it to be at a ballpark if it’s at their grocery store,” notes Food Service Matters CEO Mike Plutino. “How long that will last, I don’t know but the industry has been able to manage through it so far.”
Read more: Rebound to reboot?
- LAUSD looking to improve school meal choices
Los Angeles USD recently held a taste test of a dozen new menu items ranging from a ramen bowl with chicken or tofu, to kung pao chicken, tacos, macaroni and cheese, and smoothies ahead of the school year, which starts Aug. 15. Improving cafeteria food is part of LAUSD’s new strategic plan, which calls for elevating school nutrition by providing “fresher, healthier, and more appealing options informed by family and student feedback.” The district is also planning on rolling out a more culturally diverse menu this year, with ethnic cuisines highlighted each quarter, such as Hispanic, African-American, Asian and American Indian cuisines, said LAUSD Food Service Director Manish Singh.
- University of Illinois upgrades massive dining facility
In a Facebook post, officials with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign said the ISR Dining Center got an upgrade. Offering an array of cuisine options, it is the second largest dining facility & the largest on a university campus in the country, seating up to 1,300 people at a time and features nine mini-restaurants, each with a unique theme and décor. Students can also access a demo kitchen, where they can learn how to prepare dishes from professional chefs.
Read more: U of I reveals ISR dining hall renovations
Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]