What does the new normal look like for on-campus dining services? At this point it’s still evolving, and no doubt will continue to do so as colleges and universities struggle to adapt to post-pandemic higher education. For now, adjusting to the new reality of social distancing and fewer students regularly on campus, dining services operators are simplifying menu offerings to lower food and labor costs.1 At the same time, campus dining services want to offer nutritious meals because that’s what their students expect and desire – more than half of students say it’s important to eat healthy and pay attention to nutrition, according to Technomic.
One thing is certain. The new normal for on-campus dining services will be dominated by prepackaged, grab and go offerings. Tech-savvy Gen Z already had a penchant for eating on the go prior to the pandemic, so they will easily adapt to contactless ordering and paying for items that enable them to eat in their socially-distant bubbles. The key to keeping Gen Z dining on campus will be meeting their expectations for carryout options and ordering.
Opportunities for campus dining • Offer foods that travel well and can be easily reheated if necessary. • Use technology for worry-free contactless ordering and payment. • Let students preorder meals. • Promote nutritious food and beverage combinations with functional benefits like energy for study or immune health. • Ready-to-heat meals/meal kits for off campus students/faculty/staff.