The college/university dining community has had a tough year, no doubt, with restrictions on everything from the number of students on campus to how many can enter dining venues all serving to erode revenues as fewer residents mean fewer meal plans sold and fewer students on campus mean less retail sales.
In this edition of Food Management’s annual College Power Players feature, we provide a glimpse at where 25 of the country’s traditionally largest campus dining programs stand in the spring 2021 term. While the schools are listed by the number of meal plans sold, we hesitate to characterize this as any sort of meaningful “ranking” as dining programs are at the mercy of state, local and institutional policies outside their control. For instance, while some states (e.g., Texas) have just about allowed schools to fully open campuses, others (e.g., California) still require significant restrictions, and all of this is starkly reflected in meal plan sales.
And then there is also the yo-yo effect of shifting policies as schools hunker down or open up in reaction to sporadic COVID outbreaks and remissions. Hence, the numbers here are simply a snapshot that are subject to change as circumstances dictate.
What is clear is that even the most open programs still practice social distancing that limits in-venue dining, and takeout—often facilitated by remote order capability—seems to be the preferred mode of meal service even where in-venue dining is available.