As a new term is coming near in September, we look at some notable trends and topics of interest for education caterers in UK universities and colleges. Staying up-to-date with the latest happenings in the industry helps education caterers improve customer experience and internal processes, as well as identify opportunities you can make the most of and the threats/risks you should pay attention to.
Growing demand for healthier options
The rise in demand for healthier options is one of the most popular culinary trends this year, and it’s expected to continue to grow into the future. Sodexo's recent International University Lifestyle Survey shows that more than half of UK students expect vegan or vegetarian food to be available at their university catering or retail outlets.
On the other hand, promoting menu options that are healthier and friendlier to the environment is also high on the priority list of many university and college caterers, as can be observed from the recent TUCO Summer Conference 2022 for education caterers.
Apart from this growing demand for vegan/vegetarian food, ethnic dishes and organic foods are also on the rise as menu options on many college and university campuses. Offering a diverse menu could make your college/university more inclusive and potentially increase your customer base.
The rise of the grab-and-go market
Although grab-and-go food is not a new concept at most university and college catering outlets, sales for this type of food have taken off significantly this last couple of years. A recent report on UK Food-To-Go Market 2022 by Lumina Intelligence estimates that the UK food to go market will grow by +31.8% in 2022, to a value of £21.3bn. While this number is for the entire market rather than just grab-and-go food in universities and colleges, it still suggests a significant opportunity for education caterers, and should inspire you when planning for product offerings at your catering outlets.
Online food order or mobile ordering
The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of mobile ordering as a more convenient way of order fulfilment and payment processing in the entire food service industry. With mobile ordering, students can order from wherever they are with a click of a button.
In their article “Campus dining goes mobile: Intentions of college students to adopt a mobile food-ordering app” (Journal of Foodservice Business Research), the author highlighted that mobile food-ordering apps are so popular that some college campus dining operations have started to develop their own mobile food-ordering applications. Several other studies also pointed out that mobile ordering helps education caterers to increase their revenue and upselling opportunities because students are more likely to spend more when ordering via mobile than with waiting staff. Moreover, taking orders from an app also allows education caterers to gather useful data consistently and in formats that are easier to analyse, eventually helping them make more informed business decisions.
Interested in having your own mobile food ordering app/web app? Our Upay app also offers white-label solutions to let you showcase your brand identity in all its glory!
On-Going Staffing Issues in the UK
According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this year, hospitality staff shortages have hit a record high. ONS reports that the hospitality sector is currently experiencing 83% more vacancies across the sector compared to March - May 2019.
The race to battle this ongoing issue has seen education caterers adopt various new practices, such as providing incentives to boost staff morale, or creating a supportive work environment for employees. Alongside that, leveraging technology to do more with fewer staff is more important than ever before during this continued staffing crisis.
Are you ready for the new term?
As the new term comes near, education caterers need to check all aspects of their catering operations in order to improve efficiency, keep up with food service trends on campus, and serve more customers with fewer staff.
Want to make sure you’re well-prepared to welcome students and staff back for the term? Check out this handy checklist for education caterers, or book a place at our free webinar on “Get ready for the new term – Welcome staff and students back after the summer”.