College students have different reasons for choosing to dine on- versus off-campus, finds a new report by foodservice consultant Technomic.

Chain Leader reports that based on a new report by foodservice consultant Technomic, college students have different reasons for choosing to dine on- versus off-campus . Convenience is the strongest driver of on-campus foodservice use, cited by 65 percent of students surveyed. The reasons most often given for eating at an off-campus restaurant were better value (43 percent) and better variety (38 percent).

The findings are part of Technomic’s new College & University Consumer Trend Report, developed to help college and university dining programs, off-campus operators and suppliers tap into the important student market. It provides in-depth analysis of how student attitudes and preferences shape their dining behavior at both on- and off-campus foodservice locations. Other interesting findings include:

  • Two-fifths of students (39 percent) participate in a college or university food plan. This includes 17 percent of all students who live off campus.
  • On average, 43 percent of student meals are purchased from on-campus dining facilities (29 percent) or campus retail locations (14 percent). The remaining 57 percent are purchased at off-campus restaurants or retail stores.
  • The majority of students (71 percent) dine on-campus at least once a week, most frequently in cafeterias and dining halls, with 29 percent saying they eat in a college foodservice facility at least once a day. Three out of five students (60 percent) patronize off-campus restaurants at least once a week, favoring fast-food and fast-casual restaurants and coffee shops.
  • About 25 percent of students are vegetarians or vegans who want meatless options. A fifth of students (20 percent) say gluten-free and kosher (19 percent) meal choices are very important.
  • Many colleges and universities are replacing conventional dining facilities with retail-style food courts that feature spacious venues, customizable entrees and globally-inspired food options.

“Today’s students have come of age in a time of nontraditional dining venues that offer ethnic cuisines, healthy food choices, comfortable seating and free WiFi. Students now expect colleges and universities to reflect their retail preferences,” says Darren Tristano, EVP at Technomic. “Foodservice operators can build incremental sales by updating the campus dining experience to include a variety of creative and healthy menu options, modern décor and connectivity.”

The College & University Consumer Trend Report was developed using data gathered in a May 2009 survey of over 1,500 full-time U.S. students. In addition to in-depth analysis of student dining preferences, the report profiles innovative on site university dining programs and identifies menu and positioning trends at leading colleges and universities.

Click here to view the report

Chain Leader