College students tend to exhibit the traits associated with Millennials, but to an extreme. They are more likely to start their day later, try unique and foreign cuisines, snack throughout the day and put an emphasis on environmental and social responsibility when making purchasing choices. And as anyone who has put in the four (or five) years necessary for a bachelor's degree knows, college students are heavily reliant upon foodservice outlets for their sustenance.
Technomic recently released its College & University Consumer Trend Report. For the study, the research group interviewed full-time college and university students, including 1,500 in the U.S., 1,000 in Canada and 1,000 in the U.K. Seventy-four percent of students surveyed said they visited on-campus foodservice locations weekly, compared to 67% who visited off-campus restaurants once a week. The main reasons for staying on campus included convenience (mimicking the rest of America), the desire to stay on campus and the need for quicker service.
In the study, Technomic also found that on-campus food operators were lagging behind off-campus counterparts that marketed fast fare that was both high-quality and highly healthy. Sara Monnette, vice president at Technomic, summed it up nicely:
"On-campus operators must match the innovations of their off-campus counterparts... Creating their own unique concepts, offering a wider range of convenient and portable options, incorporating technology and extending serving hours can help drive sales and keep foodservice dollars on campus."
The need for better fare in a faster timeframe aside, the study found another interesting fact. Nearly 46% of students noted it was important that the foodservice locations they visit be environmentally and socially responsible, up from 37% in 2013. This mirrors larger moves in the foodservice industry that include responsibly-raised livestock and the removal of antibiotics and GMO ingredients from menus.