The non-commercial segments of the U.S. foodservice-industry are expected to grow by 13 percent, or $13 billion between 2002 and 2010. Especially pleasing to the audience of college and university foodservice purchasing managers hearing this prognostication: the higher education segment will lead the way with a compounded annual growth rate of 4.7 percent over this period.
The presentation, made by Kimberly Lehouiller, category development manager for Nestle Foodservice, came during a session on "Future Trends in College Foodservice" at the Collegiate Purchasing Managers Group's Purchasing Seminar in Tampa recently.
The meeting offered sessions on Dairy Pricing, Group Purchasing Organizations, Alternative Buying Methods, Buying Organic and Produce Purchasing Trends. Also on the agenda were tours to a strawberry farm, a Minute Maid orange juice processing plant and the University of Florida's Gulf Coast Research & Education Center.
The presentation by Nestle, which also included Chef Bryan Frinck, discussed the decision drivers and the types of food concepts that mesh with those drivers for different age demographics. For young people, attributes like value, convenience, variety, trends, "fun," health and ethnic options stand out, often met by QSR, casual, c-store and onsite outlets. "You've got to look at what the commercial segments are doing in order to keep them on campus," Lehouiller noted.
One of those commercial initiatives that colleges "definitely should be doing" is fast-casual, she added. The three top fast casual concepts—Mexican, Asian and sandwiches—mesh perfectly with student expectations for ethnic, healthy/fresh, on-demand choices in many varieties (to suit the many different diet choices students practice).
Diet is "not restricted just to moderation," Lehouiller noted, but is in meal choices— vegetarian/vegan, low-carb and so forth.
Students are also educated and curious about their food choices, she added. They want to know where the meal components were sourced and how it was prepared.
Lehouiller then talked about the major concept types and why they are popular: Asian and Mexican are driven by their combination of the familiar and the exotic, and by the growing ethnic diversity of the population in those demographics. Sandwiches meanwhile are strong sellers because they are so flexible and provide opportunities to merchandise preparation techniques and fresh ingredients.
Eighteen Years of "Comments"
A retrospective from OU Dining's customer venting vehicle.
For the past 18 years, once a week over the academic year, students at the University of Oklahoma in Norman have complained about the food. Or praised it. All in print, published by the dining services department.
"Kitchen Comments" recently published its 500th issue, containing some of the most memorable comments it had printed over almost two decades of documenting the department's successes and failures in the eyes of its customers.
Each comment is answered personally by David Annis, executive director of food services/ special assistant to the vp for student affairs. In fact, Annis has been replying to the comments since Kitchen Comments debuted. After all, it was his idea.
"I just wanted a way to communicate with students and show them we took their input seriously," Annis says.
Fortunately, the time needed to put together "Comments" is considerably less with e-mails than it was in the paper age. "With the comment cards, I had to cut and paste a lot," Annis says.