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    College Students Present Opportunity for Foodservice Growth

    C-store retailers should focus on variety and control, advises research firm.

    CHICAGO -- Foodservice purveyors looking to expand their businesses should focus on college students, according to Technomic Inc.'s new College & University Consumer Trend Report.

    The research firm found that 54 percent of college students use on-campus foodservice at least twice a week, and 22 percent visit these establishments twice daily. In addition, 35 percent of students make at least two off-campus visits per week.

    These figures are in spite of the fact that only 35 percent of students are highly satisfied with their school's on-campus dining program, reported Technomic. This signals an opportunity for convenience store retailers to meet their needs.

    How should c-store retailers cater to the college crowd? Let students customize their foodservice offerings, Technomic advised. Fifty-three percent of students said it is highly important to be able to omit or substitute ingredients, and 50 percent now strongly prefer to add sauces, seasonings and flavorings to their meals themselves.

    The report also provided three more recommendations for those catering to the college crowd:

    • Help students balance the healthy and the indulgent. Just 31 percent of students say their school does a good job of offering options they consider healthy, while 41 percent say it is highly important that healthy options are offered. Nevertheless, students still gravitate toward favorites like pizza, burgers, sandwiches and pasta.
       
    • Give students plenty of options to fit special diets. Nearly two in five students avoid some type of animal product and 29 percent say they are more likely to purchase gluten-free options.
       
    • Offer unique options and traditional comfort food staples. More of today’s students like to experiment with new foods and flavors, but this hasn’t decreased their interest in tried and true favorites.

    Simply stated, Technomic concluded that an effective foodservice strategy should focus on two areas: variety and control. "Students demand a wide variety of options to meet their specific needs and unique needs, but also the freedom and flexibility to do so," Technomic wrote in a blog posting.

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