Seeking out the Next Big Thing on campus; plus: Celebrate Flavors of Canada tonight

Seeking out the Next Big Thing on campus; plus: Celebrate Flavors of Canada tonight

Campus dining is a dynamic business. We are similar to the restaurant business—yet so different. Our customers dine with us several times a day, but they patronize restaurants only occasionally. You may say we are lucky to have such a captive audience, but let me tell you: It’s not easy to please our guests all day, every day.

Our millennial dinners are constantly looking for the Next Big Thing. They are health-conscious, tech-savvy, and concerned about the environment. The Pew Research Center describes this generation as confident, connected, and open to change. They also want convenience. They want everything and— yes—they’re demanding. My three daughters fit into this group, so I can claim firsthand experience with millennials.

Yet I would not trade my job to work in any other segment of the foodservice industry. One of the goals of UMass Dining is to build excitement, one meal at a time. To do so, we feature specials at our dining commons at least once a week, sometimes twice. Our students enjoy the variety of food we serve, the diversification of our menus, and, in many cases, the chance to learn a little something new at the table.

Our Visiting College Chef Series is a great example of this. Over the years, we have had more than 100 guest chefs come to our campus.

Speaking of guest chefs: Tonight, February 5, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Berkshire Dining Commons, we are hosting our annual “Flavors of Canada" event. The Flavors of Canada event, which showcases the great cuisine of our northern neighbor, is one of our most popular guest chef events. This year, with 10 chefs visiting from five Canadian universities, we are hosting the largest gathering of Canadian college chefs south of the border.

The chefs hail from McGill University in Quebec; three universities in Ontario, including McMaster, Waterloo, and Guelph; and the University of Saskatchewan. The chefs will prepare 35 dishes in total, with help from UMass chefs. These dishes will showcase Canadian students’ favorite foods and regional Canadian specialties. This year’s theme also focuses on flavor, health, and sustainability. Chefs will give a brief talk about the foods they selected and how they represent their particular region of Canada.

We need to take care our customers and provide them with value, choice, and a memorable experience. In return, they will take care of our business. In the past 10 years, we have grown our meal plan from 8,700 to more than 16,000. A lot of this growth has to do with the value we provide and the fun we have with special events.

We look forward to seeing you at the Flavors of Canada event. Expect a lively amount of fanfare with music and a video of all things Canadian. It will be all wrapped in an atmosphere of warmth during this cold time of year in New England.     

This is Ken Toong and thank you for keeping UMass Dining at the top.

Contact Ken at [email protected]


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Blog Category: 
Author Name: 
Ken Toong
Author Title: 
Executive Director Auxiliary Enterprises

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE/UMASS DINING OPERATIONS FAQ: UMass Dining is committed to the health & safety of our students, faculty and staff. We are following guidelines set by our local, state and national health officials; we routinely monitor our dining facilities; we have implemented additional sanitation measures to ensure customer safety; and we are in constant contact with the campus community.