This is the start of a new semester. It’s also a time to look at rising trends in college and university dining as we strive to serve our millennial dinners better. UMass is the second-largest campus dining operations in the nation, and we are constantly talking to our students about what they want. In addition to what we hear from students, I also take into consideration what I learned and tasted on my recent trip to Singapore (culinary heaven, in my opinion), where I attended the World of Healthy Flavors Asia conference.
-Chef Willie and Ken attend the Produce First Conference at Culinary Institute of America Napa Valley
-Citrus Bulgar Salad
11 Campus Dining Trends for 2013
Here’s what’s catching my attention:
1. One-dish meals. Bibimbap is very popular at UMass and RISD. Students enjoy the convenience of eating a variety of toppings, such as vegetables, on rice in one bowl. They also like having it created in front of them. To keep it healthy, the trick is to fill at least half of the bowl with vegetables.
2. Roasting vegetables. Forget about steaming. Roasting is the delicious way to prepare vegetables. At UMass, roasted asparagus and roasted root vegetables are very popular.
3. Along those lines, vegetables as gourmet fare. With a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper, you can turn any vegetable into a delicious side dish.
4. Sustainable seafood. With Walmart now sourcing sustainable seafood, I encourage all C&U operators to do the same. We use Seafood Watch as a guide with purchasing decisions. Some schools, like Notre Dame and Cornell, use MSC to certify their seafood program. This decision is simple: It’s good for the ocean and the costs are not that different from conventional seafood. Alaska seafood, barramundi and Gulf shrimp two great examples of sustainable seafood.
5. Stealth health. That is, making meals healthier without compromising on taste. A lot of healthy choices can come from behind the scenes. We reduce sodium, serve more whole grains, shrink portion sizes, serve less red meat, and offer more global and plant-based cuisines. These are only some of the ways to incorporate stealth health into your menu planning. At UMass, our most popular food items are sushi, stir-fry, and whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies.
6. More gluten-free. There is a big—and growing—demand for gluten-free options. Consider providing a hot-food station for the gluten-free customers. We know many students will chose this option because of the health perception. We now offer a separate food station with entrees, sides, and dessert daily for breakfast , lunch, and dinner.
7. Food trucks. Baby Berk, our mobile eatery on campus, has created quite a stir. Students enjoy the convenience, and good food, and we enjoy how it helps UMass Dining build community. It also drives revenue by accepting cash, debit and credit cards. Our students use social media to follow the truck, and we just launched our second food truck—Baby Berk 2—this week.
8. Dim sum. Who doesn’t like dumplings? From dim sum from shu mai to char siu bao, students enjoy these bite-size foods for breakfast and lunch. Dim sum goes well with green tea. We serve dim sum daily at UMass and can’t keep up with the demand. When I was in Singapore and Hong Kong, I went straight for the dim sum at the hotel and skipped the omelet station
9. Fresh-cut fruit. Because of popularity, retail stores such as Wegmans and Whole Foods are expanding their fresh-cut fruit sections. At UCLA, students will take a fresh-cut bowl of fruit for their entire grab-n- go meal.
10. Healthier beverages. Across the nation, water purification stations are popping up everywhere. We found our students preferred water and less-sweetened drinks, such as coffee and tea, over sweet drinks. Also, consider creating your own water infusions with fresh fruit and vegetables. It can save money and offer healthier choices our students. Hibiscus flower tea is a great example.
11. Going with grains. Our students are increasingly asking for more varieties of whole grains on menu, especially in side dishes and salads. Quinoa, bulgar and farro are next big grains.
This is Ken Toong. Thank you for keeping UMass Dining at the top.
Contact Ken at [email protected]
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