Long gone are the days of institutional food service where colleges were only expected to provide basic nourishment three times each day. Today's Gen Z college students want it all – locally grown, sustainable, healthy, customizable, convenient and trendy – all at a good value.
Aramark, which serves millions of college consumers every day on 500 campuses across the U.S. and Canada, has transformed its Higher Education food business from campus dining to campus culinary.
"We have almost 600 world-class chefs – supported by a team of dietitians and nutritionists -- dedicated to creating innovative and healthful culinary experiences for our astute college consumers," said Brent Franks, Chief Operating Officer for Aramark's Education business. "Our goal is to make sure students enjoy restaurant quality dining without ever having to leave campus."
From action cooking stations offering made-to-order, customizable options, to popular franchise brands to healthy, quick grab 'n go, Aramark and its 60,000 associates are excited to welcome students, faculty and staff back for another great school year.
Customization is the key for Gen Z. Younger consumers in general are more open to trying new and unique items and flavors compared to older consumers. In fact, about half (47%) of Gen Zers (aged 18–21) say that they prefer to visit restaurants that offer new or innovative flavors and ingredients*.
Action stations are offered for meals so students can create their own omelets, stir fry, pasta, and noodle and burrito bowls. This means custom ingredients and flavors – everything from locally grown fruits and veggies to a wide variety of spices, seasoning and flavor profiles.
Many campuses now offer Middle Eastern fare with emphasis on Lebanese, Turkish, Egyptian, and Greek; Halal meals and Kosher options. Students with special dietary and lifestyle needs have a selection of gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options, as well as allergen-free zones.
New this fall are an array of culinary delights including international flavors such as Butter Chicken, Thai Red Curry Beef, Pork Chili Verde, Latin Beef Stew and more. Culinary action stations for Asian and Mexican cuisine encourage further customization with proteins, sauces, toppings and vegetarian options.
Students on the go want quick, easy and great tasting options in real time. About two-fifths of Gen Zers say that the ability to customize meals is one of top five most important attributes at limited service restaurants*.
Aramark currently operates over 1,200 franchises on college campus and is the largest operator of national and regional brands in the university channel including top-ranked brands, such as Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Einstein Brothers Bagels, Which Wich and more.
New this fall is the addition of popular Asian fusion brand, Pei Wei, which opens its first ever campus location at Arizona State University this week; and La Madeleine and Brioche Doree opening soon at the University of Kentucky.
Greens to Go, Aramark's proprietary brand offering fresh, tossed-to-order salads, and customized protein bowls also joins the 2015 roster with new locations opening at eight Aramark partner campuses this fall.
Whether it's trying to avoid the dreaded Freshman 15 or focusing on better diet and lifestyle choices, Gen Z wants fresh, healthy, local and sustainable offerings.
Aramark sources food locally and within the region whenever possible, a practice that has been strengthened through a partnership with FarmLogix. Together with FarmLogix, Aramark helps to bring fresh, locally sourced food including fruits, vegetables, and proteins to consumers, as well as offering a frozen local program to extend local purchases during months when fresh harvests are not available. FarmLogix utilizes proprietary technology to connect local farms with schools and institutions while maintaining all safety standards.
New this fall are more 500-calorie-or-less entree selections, more sandwich options made with whole grains and more lower sodium soups. New vegan stations have been at meal times and Hydration Stations, offering on-trend choices of fruit-and veggie-infused waters, are also available.
In addition to healthier menu options, most Aramark campuses have nutritionists and registered dietitians who can help students manage their health and wellness goals, as well as assist with special dietary needs.
Aramark will begin a Visiting Nutritionist Program to bring health and wellness support to smaller campuses without an onsite registered dietitian.