Campus Dining Trends That Go Beyond Chicken Tenders and Pizza

College dining halls these days look more like the popular food halls in cities throughout the U.S. and Canada than like the cafeterias that many alumni remember. Today’s students have sophisticated palates and dining services reflect this.

At Sodexo, we oversee dining services at more than 600 U.S. colleges and universities. Our dining programs meet the preferences and lifestyles of today’s student. We have identified seven trends in university dining that our experience has shown students want from their dining experience.

Plant-Based Options: Students want food that supports a healthy environment and diet. Plant-based options, which may or may not be vegan, make vegetables the star of the show. Flavor, color and protein combine to show that vegetables no longer have to be relegated to side dishes.

Social Food Sized Right: Small, shareable plates—tapas, mezze and antojitos—allow students to sample multiple dishes or share with friends. They can size their meals up or down, leading to less food waste.

Global Flavors: With popular restaurants bringing international flavors home and social media making the world a smaller place, dishes from around the world are becoming popular options at university dining centers. More and more international students are coming to the US and Canada to attend college and schools are bringing food these students love from home to campus.

Bowls, Bowls, Bowls: Portable and customizable, bowls are taking over college dining. Grain, acai berry, smoothie, poke, ramen, rice and everything in between, bowls are easy to assemble quickly and allow for layering of a variety of ingredients.

Crazy for Customization: College students have grown up with fast casual dining options that allow for customization from Mexican to sandwiches to salads. This trend has made its way to campus with options including a pasta toss bar and the Boom Chica Bao Bar (playing off popular bao buns).

High-end Restaurants Go to School: Many college students don’t have the money to eat at high-end, urban restaurants but by partnering with celebrity chefs, universities can serve a taste of them at affordable prices. Sodexo has partnered with chef Art Smith to offer his famous healthy comfort food at dining centers across the U.S., rotating a different selection of dishes each season.

Avoiding Allergens: For those with food allergies, eating out can be stressful. Providing students with allergies a safe place to eat where they do not feel singled out socially is a priority at my colleges and universities.

Our campus dining locations exemplify our “Love of Food,” a consumer-centric approach that embraces fantastic food, healthy and balanced choices, and culinary innovation among our team of global chefs. To learn more about how our dining and facilities services can help improve the Quality of Life of your organization, contact us.


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