UMass Dining has been ranked No. 1 by the Princeton Review for Best Campus Food the last two years and in the top 10 for the last seven. The culinary-driven program boasts having 15 authentic world cuisines available at any given time, just one reason 70 percent of students surveyed indicate that UMass Dining was important in their decision to attend. Recently, the department added a premade meal kit program called UMass Fresh that requires customers only to reheat UMass chef-prepared dishes. An all-new dining commons with a teaching kitchen, edible garden and student experience area is scheduled to open in 2020. For more, go here.
Over the past few years UConn Dining renovated its Putnam Refectory residential dining facility in a $23 million project that doubled seating and offered multiserving lines offering traditional fare, blended vegetable/fruit drinks, ethnic street foods and two plant walls. Another recent addition is a gluten-free bakery to ensure no cross-contamination, and UConn has also been active in the Menus of Change Research Collaborative, which led it to replace its traditional burgers with a blended product in January of 2017. Other sustainable efforts include the removal of food waste that will be processed into biodiesel and compost and accomplishing the goal of having all of its residential dining facilities Green Restaurant Certified.
Among major initiatives for VT Dining in the past two years have been the complete demolitions and renovations of the JP’s Chop House and Fighting Gobbler’s Sports Bar outlets, the addition of a grab-and-go space in the West End Market, the extension of vegetarian and vegan offerings and the addition of two state-of-the-art food trucks to the campus dining mix. It also debuted an active ingredient and nutritional website with an allergen filter last fall, when it also rolled out a mobile ordering and payment app throughout its entire program. It is on pace to see more than 500,000 transactions in its first year. For more, go here.
Rutgers recently piloted a vegetable carving station and rolled out a new veggie-centric take-out menu to satisfy student requests for more plant-based options. Its commitment to reducing the amount of animal proteins it serves was also illustrated by the entry of its signature Sizzling Scarlet Knight blended burger in a national James Beard Foundation Best Blended Burger competition. Two years ago, Rutgers added a mobile branded Starbucks station, one of the first universities in the country to do so. Other recent changes include bringing the production of processed items like chicken fingers, turkey and roast beef in-house instead of buying them premade.
Ohio State recently expanded its local and sustainable food program with a newly defined goal of purchasing 40 percent of food from local and/or sustainable sources by 2025. It also introduced a mobile ordering app that currently facilitates nearly 30 percent of overall retail transactions. Last fall, all residence hall students received a personalized reusable cup equipped with a RFID chip and preloaded with drinks when they moved in. The school also introduced a fully customizable made-to-order pizza station at one of the existing retail locations and a fusion taco station where meat is cooked in Brazilian churrascaria style at another. For more, go here.
Last fall, Georgia Tech debuted its new West Village complex, a three-story building overlooking Atlanta’s Midtown with a Starbucks on the third floor, a Panera on the first floor and five food concepts on the second floor with a meal swipe option. They include Spice Trail, featuring tastes and dishes from the routes traveled by Marco Polo from the Mediterranean to the Far East; Farmhouse, featuring the best of roasted and grilled items from throughout the Americas; the Italian-influenced Olive, featuring pizzas and pasta as well as cooked-to-order specialty mac and cheese; Simple Servings, with selections devoid of eight major food allergens; and Local Chefs Station, showcasing local chef talent and local ingredients.
A $28 million renovation of the East Food District included 10 retail units in the refurbished Findlay Dining Commons, an AYCTE venue and Market East, a 3,200-square-foot c-store that offers a wide selection of fresh produce, groceries, beverages and health/beauty goods. Included in the AYCTE venue is PURE, a combined kosher/10-common-allergen-free dining concept that under Star K kosher certification supervision offers a fresh menu Sunday through Thursday. PSU Dining has also reduced its declining balance campus meal from six to three levels to make it easier for students and parents to understand and select a level, while a new student guidebook and employment program has promoted recruitment and improved retention of student employees.
Among recent initiatives at MSU was the opening last fall of a full, urban-style grocery store under the school’s Sparty’s Market brand, joining some 20 other Sparty’s locations scattered around campus. Meanwhile, MSU Bakers, the on-campus bakery, opened a storefront on campus to offer walk-in purchases of its fresh-made products, while the Main Street concept in the Vista at Shaw dining center debuted a new, “lean” menu devoid of artificial colors or flavors, preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils or any processed foods. The Culinary Services Department also forged partnerships with student groups such as Slow Food MSU and MSU Veg Club to help educate the campus community on food movements and lifestyles.
Northeastern’s newest dining locations include Caffé Strega in the Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Complex and Za’tar, an Eastern Mediterranean concept featuring scratch-made pitas and grain bowls. One of the institutions invited to be a member of the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative, Northeastern has accelerated sustainable operating procedures across its campus with initiatives such as the use of imperfectly delicious produce, a campus-wide composting program, trayless residential dining and the removal of plastic bags from the takeout dining concept. The Xhibition Kitchen state-of-the-art display kitchen has hosted more than 500 interactive cooking events and is also used for hands-on teaching events as part of Northeastern’s membership in the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative. For more, go here.
Red's Donut Shoppe opened in fall 2016 and features fresh donuts made daily, including a variety of cake donuts and the signature Raider Red Velvet donut. Last fall, the first full-service Starbucks debuted on campus and currently Hospitality Services is renovating the Chick-fil-A unit in the Student Union Building, one of three Chick-fil-As on campus, to feature the chain’s full menu. Completion is slated for this summer. Also, within the last two years, Hospitality Services worked to bring the Tapingo mobile ordering option to campus and is now exploring kiosk ordering as a way to support students and help battle the constant labor issues that the department faces. Kiosk ordering is looking to roll out during the 2018-2019 academic year.
Campus dining at UCLA is split between the housing department, which maintains the residential dining halls and a handful of retail outlets, and Associated Students of UCLA (ASUCLA), which operates the bulk of the retail dining, including nine third-party tenant outlets leased by ASUCLA (and included in the above total). A point of pride for both departments was UCLA’s being named No. 1 on niche.com’s Best College Food in America listing for the second consecutive year in 2017. One reason was probably the recently opened new Study at Hedrick dining hall, a hybrid eatery/study space that has become a popular campus communal space. The most recent addition to the dining mix was a unit of the noted Blaze Pizza chain in the Court of Sciences Student Center.
During Chartwells’ time at Texas A&M, 13 projects have been executed to renovate or create 15 locations. The fall of 2017 brought the addition of a third major dining hall, Southside Commons, following a two-year renovation, to accompany over 40 retail dining concepts across campus. Another Chartwells initiative is a farmers’ market launched two years ago that is designed to connect the campus community with area producers and vendors by bringing the latter to campus.
Additions to the Miami-Ohio dining program since the start of this year included having a featured vegan entree as well as vegan desserts and muffins at every buffet location, and the launch of the Pulley Diner Candy Bar and its array of retro candies for bulk purchase. Last fall saw the debut of three new retail concepts in the Armstrong Student Center and a new AYCTE venue, Maple Street Commons, with pizza, deli, panini, custom stir-fry, pasta, grill and allergen-friendly options. Also, all nuts have been removed from the dining facilities and the dining department no longer uses nuts in the production of food, though pre-packaged nut items will still be sold in the retail market locations.
To meet an Affordability Challenge, Purdue Dining had added a seven-meal plan with no dining dollars back in 2013, when it also gave five percent of the board cost back to the students. Another five-percent reduction was added a year later and as the student population in university housing subsequently increased, boosting meal plan numbers, the focus shifted to creating new dining opportunities to manage seating capacity in the dining courts. The result was the award winning 7-Ways Campaign introduced in fall 2016 that included offering meal swipes in retail locations in the Purdue Memorial Union, creating a new pizza concept on the residential side of campus and featuring the catering and culinary staff in a pop-up concept in a residence hall that won an FM Best Concept Award last year. Another effective recent initiative was a partnership with an academic industrial engineering project to come up with solutions to operational challenges. For more, go here.
Michigan Dining is the result of the 2014 consolidation of Michigan's self-operated dining operations, catering and retail restaurants. Recent renovations include the South Quad Dining Hall, the Fireside food court on North Campus and six retail cafes and restaurants across campus. The culinary staff includes 20 ACF certified chefs. Recent initiatives involve addressing food allergens and sensitivities, adding gluten-free rooms in the major dining halls, transitioning to open access AYCTE for all residential meal plans and introducing a global chef program to improve the authenticity of ethnic food offerings from around the world. In the fall of 2018, the department will open a certified kosher restaurant in South Quad and a Kitchen and Marketplace in the Michigan League events facility.
Among UGA Dining’s most recent initiatives were the openings of an Au Bon Pain unit in the Terry College of Business and three concepts in the Tate Student Center: Market at Tate with expanded grab-and-go/convenience items, Bulldog Burgers and Barberitos Southwestern Grill & Cantina. They join several other concepts introduced in Tate in the last few years, including the adapted residential dining concept Niche Pizza Co. along with national chain units from Chick-fil-A, Panda Express and Starbucks. Also debuting in the last couple of years were Coffee and Bagels (featuring Caribou and Einstein’s products) in the new Science Learning Center and the Taqueria 1785 food truck.
Over the past four years, Liberty University has basically reinvented its dining program as the two main resident dining halls, as well as a major food court, were all extensively renovated, 13 new retail locations were added and the program went to an unlimited anytime dining plan for all resident students. Recently, the gluten-free campus bake shop expanded its reach into retail, a local produce stand was brought to campus and a new Gluten Intolerant Options program was introduced, with 20 of 23 dining locations now serving gluten-free products, which let meal plan users get gluten-free options at no extra cost. Last fall, the school and dining partner Sodexo also launched a widespread commitment to eco-friendly products for its catering and retail departments, with plates and drinkware made of renewable plant materials.
UC-Boulder’s new Village Dining & Community Center, replacing a 1960s vintage facility, opened in January 2017 and subsequently won an FM Best Concept Award. Among its features is a 3,000-square-foot greenhouse with 137 aeroponic grow towers to which it is attached. Plans call for eventually having all green leafy vegetables for all campus dining operations coming from this greenhouse.
In January of 2017, UCSD Dining Services opened its newly renovated OceanView outlet with five dining concepts on three separate platforms, including a glatt kosher certified platform called Spice that serves a signature menu centered around various spice flavor profiles from all over the world and also boasts halal friendly offerings for observant Muslim students. This past January, two other new programs were introduced to bolster student satisfaction—a new student Dining Ambassador team and the Tapingo mobile ordering platform, which now serves 11 dining operations and several third-party retailers. Planned for fall 2020 is the opening of the Torrey Pines Living Learning Neighborhood, a cross-functional housing, dining and academic neighborhood in which UCSD Dining will open its largest market location, an indoor-outdoor BBQ concept and a multiplatform quick-service restaurant.
Cornell’s Risley Dining venue now operates a 100-percent gluten-, tree nut- and peanut-free kitchen and has received a gluten-free facility certification from Kitchens with Confidence. Cornell Dining is now responsible for concession operations at Cornell Athletics facilities and Cornell Catering will manage events at Moakley House, the clubhouse at Cornell University's Robert Trent Jones Golf Course. In addition, Cornell Dining has announced it will be focusing on whole, minimally processed food and transparency in menu items to align with Menus of Change principles and has already made over 50 changes to the ingredients being purchased and recipes are being modified to accommodate these changes in all AYCTE and retail locations. For more, go here.
Last fall, the kosher dining room on the BU campus was expanded to include a completely vegan component, with kosher meat offerings available in one section of the open kitchen and an extensive plant-based menu, also prepared using kosher ingredients, offered in a separate serving area. Also last year, BU committed to obtaining 20 percent of its food from sustainable sources and exceeded that by achieving 23.5 percent local purchasing. Also, BU Dining Services established a partnership with local food recovery network Food for Free that repurposes excess food into preportioned, healthy, nutritious “Family Meals” and distributes them to local families in need. For more, go here.
Among initiatives introduced by ISU dining in the fall of 2017 were new meal plans developed to include Anytime Dining Access; increased service hours (6:45 a.m.-10 p.m.) on both sides of campus; the opening of Friley Windows Dining Center with local rotisserie chicken, a vegetarian/vegan station and scratch-crust pizza; the debut of the self-branded upscale sandwich concept Lance and Ellie’, featuring housemade breads and Boar’s Head brand meats and cheeses; and the addition of a food truck with an upscale walking taco concept. For next school year, ISU Dining is renovating its retail food court to add a weigh-and-pay salad bar; adding campus favorites grilled cheese, burgers and breakfast sandwiches on fresh croissants to the Clyde’s grab-and-go location; and revamping the Hub Grill and Coffee Concept to feature Mediterranean foods along with a redesigned coffee program with local roaster The Roasterie. It’s also transitioning the campus smoothie concepts from franchised to self-branded.
UNH Hospitality Services (UNHHS) recently expanded its largest dining hall, Holloway Commons, with an additional 350 seats, embraced Menus of Change principles in its daily menu offerings and created a weekly Wellness Wednesdays program to help guide guests toward making healthier, more sustainable life-long choices. There also are now two allergen-friendly stations on campus, at Holloway and at Philbrook Hall, with options free of the eight most common allergens; a new wellness station at Stillings Hall that focuses on whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and healthy meat options; and updated gluten-friendly stations at all dining halls with more items and additional wayfinding signage to help guests navigate these self-serve areas. The 2017-2018 school year kicked off with a Wildcat Welcome BBQ that implemented a zero-waste initiative using compostable products, reusable serving ware, bulk condiments and recycle and compost stations. Finally, UNHHS is now managing concessions operations at UNH’s Whittemore Center Arena, Field House and new Wildcat Stadium.
Cal Dining recently boosted the number of plant-centric foods at its Café 3 Dining Center, which also now boasts a center station that is certified kosher and also serves halal options. The campus grocery store Bear Market began accepting SNAP and CalFresh EBT cards in January. Last fall, late night hours at the Crossroads Dining Hall were cut back as a cost-saving measure, but this spring the department continued its support of female culinarians by turning over the ASUC Student Dining Room to three local woman-owned restaurants as part of the venue’s pop-up rotation.
NC State Dining implemented new meal plans for fall 2017 that provide unlimited access to the residential dining halls for either five or seven days per week, plus a number of meal equivalencies per week that can be used in retail dining establishments, $100 dining dollars and a set number of dining hall guest passes. They have been extremely popular, with a record number of meal plan sold and revenue increases of more than $4 million. To support the new meal plans, new action stations in the residential dining halls were created, hours extended and center-of-the-plate offerings upgraded. NC State Dining’s mobile ordering platform is heavily used, with some locations receiving half of their orders via mobile, and the department website was redesigned in 2017 to make it more mobile-friendly. To facilitate food transparency, allergens are marked at the ingredient level to communicate that information to customers via digital menu boards, the website, kiosks, the mobile app and labeling.