Return to in-person events
Since college students missed out on so much of what makes school a community experience last year, we saw colleges welcome students back (safely) with events like BU’s beloved lobster night.
Hyper local goods on campus
When “town and gown” relations are working well, current students can sample local products from those in the community, sometimes even from local alumni. This has been the case at Houghton College, where blends of coffee from Jockey Street Coffee Roasters are now available in the dining hall.
The crossroads of food and culture
College dining collabs with student-led cultural organizations are a recipe for a delicious meal with a side of learning, as they’re doing at University of Mary Washington, where the Sodexo team works with the schools multicultural center for dozens of cool events throughout the year.
Recent food trend data suggests bowls could be edging out—gasp—sandwiches on menus. With their endless customization and portability properties, bowls can be made healthy with grains and greens, indulgent with poutine and pasta, and everything in between.
Staffing headaches continue
Ghost kitchens not so scary
As a solution to limitations, ghost kitchens have conjured up some great ideas for college chefs. Just ask Chef David Schneider, Sodexo GM at Mary Washington, who came up with the idea of 1301 Hen House, a wildly successful ghost kitchen specializing in a college fave: chicken tenders.
Food trends keep things fresh
In spite of all the challenges posed by this year, college chefs are still coming up with trendy concepts to get students fired up, like the new customizable mac ‘n cheese concept, Thai concept and Indian concept at Stony Brook University. At Montclair State University, the Chartwells Higher Ed team is even operating a station dedicated to TikTok food trends.
Grow it yourself
As supply chain hiccups plague every segment of food service, we’ve seen more colleges in particular responding with a “grow it yourself” attitude, making use of ag school resources and in some cases, bringing hydroponic gardens right next to the salad bar, as Aramark has done at the Virginia Commonwealth University. Marist College took it a step further with a garden party to highlight campus-grown produce.
Plant power pushes forward
College and university dining programs were among the first to truly take vegan and vegetarian eating seriously, and the idea has evolved with new products and a more “plant-forward”/flexitarian/inclusive mindset. At Dillard University, Sodexo Chef Dennis Dunn creates plant-based versions of traditional New Orleans fare.
Acceleration of tech
The pandemic pushed development of robots, contactless experiences, mobile ordering and more. At the University of Pennsylvania, upgrades to the meal swipe system, more automation and kiosk ordering options were all part of the back-to-school rush this fall.