The Evolution of C&U Dining

March 2017

College and university dining has come a long way over the years. With innovative menu items, unique eating spaces and tech-driven service, many of today’s dining halls and on-campus eateries are on par with the nation’s trendiest restaurants—if not one step ahead.

Commercial operations can start taking cues from the C&U segment to prepare for the influx of Gen Z (those born after the mid-1990s). Explore what’s happening on college campuses across the nation, as well as ways to incorporate these trends in your operation:

  • A different definition of healthy: Instead of calorie counts and fat content, younger diners are interested in sustainability and responsibility. As a result, campuses such as Yale and St. Olaf College of Minnesota are committed to serving no-antibiotics-ever proteins as well as organic options. As a commercial operator, you can support this trend by making a switch to no-antibiotics-ever (NAE) poultry products. Farm to Family by Butterball™, a new line of NAE products for foodservice, now features ground turkey and will soon include a variety of options, making it easier than ever for you to offer NAE menu items.
  • Asian cuisine cravings: Colleges across the country are experiencing an increased demand for quality, authentic Asian food. In response, the University of Southern California has a dining hall dedicated to Asian-inspired options. It includes a made-to-order sushi station and Asian bao, bahn mi and rice bowls. Adding menu items with an Asian influence can help you stay abreast of this trend. Try the Korean BBQ Turkey Won Ton Tacos or a Kimchi Turkey Burger.
  • Accessible dining: College students’ appetites aren’t regulated by the clock. To allow access to craveable foods at all hours of the day, Xavier University now offers a pizza ATM. Students can conveniently purchase a made-to-order pizza, anytime. Universities such as Maryland and Vanderbilt feature dining halls that are open 24 hours per day to ensure diners get their fill, no matter when they’re hungry. While 24-hour dining may not be feasible for every commercial operation, you can start by offering all-day breakfast, or including daypart-agnostic items such as the Turkey and Savory French Toast Hot Brown or the Turkey Burger Benedict.

What’s trending in one segment has the power to affect the others, from college and university to healthcare. Explore Butterball’s Resource Center to stay up to date with what’s happening in the foodservice world.


The 50 Best College Dining Experiences, College Rank, 2016.

10 Healthy University Dining Halls on American Campuses, Health Fitness Revolution, October 2016.

Moran, Dana. USC revamps two on-site cafes, FoodService Director, January 2017.

Buzalka, Mike. What’s new in campus dining innovations, Food Management, October 2016.

King, Paul. 5 trends driving college foodservice, Hcareers, March 2016.

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