Colleges & Universities Adapt to Changing Trends

Published on: 04/16/2018 in College & University

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Foodservice on college and university campuses poses a unique challenge. College campuses typically include a huge range of options, from grab-and- go counters to full-service restaurants to catering services that feed students, staff, faculty, and visitors. Foodservice directors are tasked with offering familiar foods to help ease the transition to away-from- home living for students, while also staying on top of the health and flavor trends that each new generation expects to see on campus.

The typical college student eats one out of every three meals on-campus, a number that fluctuates from freshman to senior year. For many, this is the first time they have been away from home for any length of time, while the rigors of school and a new social climate only add to the stress. It’s perhaps no surprise that, while facing these challenges, many students seek out familiar comfort foods. And the vast majority of C&U operators (over 95%) meet those needs, offering options like sandwiches, burgers, french fries, soup, and pizza.

Yet students are evenly split between wanting comfort foods and healthy options. Now many universities are adding a wide variety of better-for- you foods as part of overall health and wellness programs, taking aim at the dreaded “Freshman 15.” In fact, healthy and seasonal foods are two of the most-offered items on campuses today. Four out of every five C&U operators offers sustainable items, while half offer organic ingredients.

As colleges welcome new, more diverse populations of students who grew up as a “foodie generation,” operators are seeking out even more adventurous, often globally-inspired options. These options keep students, some of whom may be eating nearly every meal on campus, excited and engaged. In fact, one- third of college students say they encounter a food they’ve never seen before at least weekly on- campus. Now many schools are adding themed dinners (often tied to holidays or events) or globally- inspired dining concepts. Over half of colleges currently offer Indian cuisine, while an additional 14% want to offer it; in fact, Indian and Moroccan cuisines are tied for the two cuisines that C&U operators are most interested in adding.

At Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA, the student body voted to add Mediterranean concept Meze Feta to campus this year, incorporating foods from Greece, North Africa, Turkey, and Iran to their dinning hall. The concept allows students to customize their bowl, pita, or nacho plate with proteins like grilled chicken or lamb and turkey meatballs combined with options like house-made hummus, harissa, baby super greens, or roasted beets. Customization is key for students today. Over half of students said they expected to visit a restaurant that lets them customize their meal in the upcoming semester.

Having a well-rounded foodservice program isn’t just integral to keeping current students and staff happy – it’s also essential to attracting the next generation of students. In fact, 79% of college operators say campus dining plays an important role in student recruitment.


  • 65% of students want healthy options
  • 88% of colleges and universities offer catering services.
  • 49% of college students want hormone-free proteins.

Put This Trend into Action

With nearly half of all college students citing a desire for hormone-free proteins, it is important to maintain healthy and sustainable dining options on college campuses. Perdue Foodservice offers a portfolio of high-value attribute proteins such as NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER chicken and turkey. From simple cold cut sandwiches to hearty ‘home-cooked’ dinners, look to Perdue to meet all of your on-campus protein needs. As today’s students continue to develop health-conscious eating habits, it will be imperative to meet their demands—try Perdue’s NO ANTIBIOTCS EVER proteins to keep your students healthy and happy.


Basho Express
(Boston University)
KATSU CHICKEN BURRITO: Panko chicken, romaine lettuce, sweet carrot pickles, katsu sauce, cilantro.
Stone Oven
HERBES DE PROVENCE CHICKEN PIZZA: With red grapes, mozzarella cheese, and pesto sauce on a brown rice tortilla.