The Freshman 15 – A College Dining Dilemma

The hardest things in college are choosing your major and deciding what to eat each day. Hailey, a millennial, takes us through her dining hall.

How do you feed hungry college students?
Hailey gives us her take on college foodservice.

By Hailey – A millennial

The hardest things in college are choosing your major and deciding what to eat each day. When you first start college, as I did last fall, dining hall food really isn’t that bad, but after some time it just gets old, uninspiring and heavy.  There comes a time when burgers and pizza will not suffice, not just because of the repetition, but because the scale is screaming at you and so is your health.

At my university, more than 25% of students live on campus. Although there are three foodservice dining hall locations on my meal plan, I usually eat at the closest one because of time constraints and let’s face it…pure laziness. We have four different choices of meal plans. Many females choose the 10 or 14 meal plan but guys and athletes choose 19 or unlimited meals.

How many calories?
What shall I eat today?

Looking around the dining hall, there are lots of different choices. It is set up buffet style with a salad bar in one corner, two main dishes in the middle, pizza and burgers in the other corner, and a cereal station. Here’s the usual food breakdown: Pizza, soup, salad, burgers, fries, pasta, make-your-own sandwich bar, and cereal bar. Then there are two main entrées that change everyday. Revolving entrees that come to mind are chicken fried steak, raviolis, and barbeque salmon. There are also ethnic inspired choices like teriyaki chicken, gyros, and burritos.

Another temptation lies outside the dining hall but still on campus – food courts. The one across from my dorm houses a Panda Express, Papa Johns, Subway, Chic-fil-A, and so much more. This makes things harder when trying to stick with a diet and eating healthy (with the exception of Subway). It just seems impossible not to gain the dreaded freshman 15. The smoothie shop does help with meal replacement and healthier food consumption. You wouldn’t believe how good real fruit tastes some days. They offer parfaits, energy boost smoothies, and frozen yogurt.

Our dining hall accommodates dairy allergies with soy milk.
For those with dairy allergies and sensitivities, our dining hall provides alternative solutions to milk.

Accommodating special diets is also a consideration on campus. For example, at the dining hall’s cereal station, almond and soy milk are provided for those students who are lactose intolerant. Also, some pizzas are made with gluten free crust for students avoiding gluten because of an intolerance or lifestyle choice. Additionally, many of us want to “eat clean” and/or organic.  It is actually really easy to eat clean if you stick to the salad bar and only grab a baked, grilled or roasted meat from the entrée line. The struggle is repetition. A salad and a plain turkey patty is not something we really want to eat every meal of every day. As for organic, we definitely aren’t seeing it.

Salads are usually your best choice for a health-conscious meal.
The salad bar is a way to keep your diet on track.

I know MyPlate and the new healthier eating initiatives set forth by Mrs. Obama are trending but I’m still unsatisfied with my college dining experience thus far. I think that more can be done to help college students enjoy eating on campus. First, make the caloric intake visible on the menu, not just online. Second, let us know what we are eating by placing an ingredient card next to the food. Third, offer samples of food so that trying new foods isn’t super scary. Dumping uneaten food makes us sad, too! Fourth, make sure there are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (possibly organic) to choose from as well as lean meats and seafood. Fifth, implement cook on demand areas like stir-fry and brick-ovens. Finally, consider purchasing organic. Set up a station that only serves organic food. Try it just to see if your business picks up!

The one big difference from home to college is always having dessert available.
Save room for dessert!

Although I talk a good number about eating healthy, please don’t take away my option for a hot fudge sundae or a chili dog! Millennials are hard to please and we want everything instantly but you know we are the future and we’re eating out.

Our Top 5 Foodservice Trends for 2015

As a leader in foodservice manufacturing, it’s our job at Foothill Farms to stay on the forefront of what people crave. Here are our thoughts on five menu trends we expect to grow in 2015.

Written by Melissa Caringer, a food and fashion freelance writer www.linkedin.com/in/melissacaringer

As a leader in foodservice manufacturing, it’s our job at Foothill Farms to stay on the forefront of what people crave. So we took a look at which of our products have been flying off the shelves, where the overall industry is moving and what our customers are requesting most. Here are the five trends that bubbled up to the top for this year.

1. Reinventing Ranch

Easy Prep. Endless Possibilities.
Easy Prep. Endless Possibilities.

Ranch is the “girl next door” of dressings. Friendly and familiar by day and surprisingly irresistible when prepped for a night out. “Ranch has an incredible opportunity to be redefined and made (or modified) in house. It can be completely reinvented and used to spice up an old favorite or familiarize a new concept,” Jorge Cespedes, research and development chef at Food IQ, told Flavor & The Menu. And it’s not just about taking salads to the next level. An upgraded ranch dressing can be your signature sauce offered on sandwiches, as a pommes frites or kale chip dip, drizzled over soups or as a taco topping.

The possibilities for ranch dressing mix-ins are endless, but going with of-the-moment flavors is an easy way to get noticed. Add some locally grown mint for a refreshing twist, or blend in a superfood like avocado. Give it a hot hit of wasabi or go bold with regional barbecue sauce. Find inspiration and recipes for Curry Ranch, Thai Ranch, Mango Habanero Ranch and more here.

2. Comfort Meets Adventure
Asian and Latin cuisines have trended for years. Why? They infuse a sense of comfort with an invitation to explore. Brothy pho soothes. Slow-cooked carnitas are the epitome of soul food. Meanwhile the exotic marriage of spicy and sweet or smoky and herbaceous lures our palates east and south. In 2015, look for the breakout of Korean, mainstreaming of Vietnamese and upscaling of ramen noodles, according to Technomic. And ever-popular Latin flavors will see in uptick in breakfast offerings, predicts the National Restaurant Association.

All you need is Sweet Thai Style Chili Sauce mix, hot water and a whisk.
All you need is Sweet Thai Style Chili Sauce Mix, hot water and a whisk.

It won’t just be ethnic restaurants capitalizing on this love affair with Asian and Latin flavors. They’re hitting the mainstream with huevos rancheros on breakfast menus and ramen nights at corner restaurants. Any operation can get in on this trend with the right sauces and seasonings. Get tips on easily adding Sweet Thai Chili condiments, Mandarin Orange Chicken and more to your menu here and find Charro Beans, Orange Chile Brownies and others here.

3. DIY Health
“What do you have that’s healthy?” Is this person looking for something that’s gluten free? Fat or preservative free? Farm-to-table? Made with whole grains or superfoods? Low sodium or high nutrient? Real food? Today what is considered healthy can vary drastically from person to person. It may be about food they think is good for their bodies or food that makes them feel good about themselves. That’s why 2015 is all about a DIY approach.

Mix greek yogurt with Cilantro Lime Rice Seasoning for a great tasting fish taco!
Mix greek yogurt with Cilantro Lime Rice Seasoning for a great tasting fish taco.

According to Food Genius, the better-for-you movement has yet to lose steam and is now being complemented by another Millennial-driven trend: customization. So let diners choose from a variety of offerings that cover one or more health concerns. Some of the dishes you already serve may work perfectly as-is. Just start calling out their benefits on your menu (eg, That mac and cheese is already vegetarian). Another quick way to get (and stay) on the radar of today’s health-conscious guests is using sauces and seasonings like Flavorwise to help meet health concerns without sacrificing flavor.

4. Back to Scratch

Back to Scratch
Back to Scratch

Get ready for a sweeping movement back to scratch cooking. It’s all about balancing food and labor costs with preparing home-style dishes back of house. Particularly look for schools to go in this direction as they cut back on reheating processed foods and do more themselves. The challenge will continue to be labor restraints.

There are various schools of thought on overcoming this challenge. Some believe that it’s about investing in new equipment. Others, like the principal of Food Systems Solutions LLC Kate Adamick, say “Most school district food service departments don’t need a bigger labor force to return to scratch-cooking, they need a better trained labor force.” Some combination of equipment, labor, training and the right products is likely where the sweet spot lies. Check out Foothill Farms sauces and seasonings to quickly and affordably transform whole foods into mouthwatering, scratch-made dishes.

5. Think Small

Diners will continue to order them instead of entrées this year, making their meals three plates instead of one.
Diners will continue to order them instead of entrées this year, making their meals three plates instead of one.

From tapas to dim sum, small plates are still big news. Diners will continue to order them instead of entrées this year, making their meals three plates instead of one. The low-commitment, high-flavor bites satisfy cravings for variety and create a social, sharing experience. They also allow chefs to stretch their legs and dabble in a variety of global flavor palettes.

One innate challenge of small plates is that the variety of menu options may mean a need for additional prep and ingredient storage areas. Depending on the complexity of the dishes, more staff may be required too. That’s why sauces and seasonings that bring a big dose of flavor to small plates with little prep or storage will be your best friend in 2015. For small plate ideas, click here.

Melissa is a food and fashion freelance writer currently based in Milwaukee, WI.
Melissa Caringer

Melissa is a food and fashion freelance writer currently based in Milwaukee, WI. Since 1998, she has written about up-and-coming food trends, shadowed chefs, participated in focus groups and tasted her way across the country in search of the best bites. If you have a question for Melissa or Foothill Farms, please leave us a comment below.

What Foodservice Needs To Know About Selling to Millennials

Millennials are one of the most sought-after consumers due to their spending power. A millennial blogger shares her knowledge and offers sales and marketing strategies to help brands reach this generation most effectively.

A guest blog by Hailey, a millennial

First of all, what is a millennial? This generation is comprised of 20 and 30-somethings born during the 1980’s and 90’s. They are one of the largest demographic groups since Baby Boomers. It is reported in a UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School journal article that 36% of the current workforce are millennials and that this population segment is expected to grow to 46% by the year 2020. The foodservice industry needs to find more ways to stay connected and attract this generation. As a fellow millennial, I know something about what it takes to grab their attention. Here are four strategies of how foodservice can appeal to our critical generation.

To start off, brands need to think of what millennials do day-to-day. We are always on social media. All day, every day, we have easy access to brands, which is very important to us. It’s key for a brand to have a social presence, such as Twitter, YouTube and/or Instagram, if you want us to give any consideration to buying your product.

Next, a brand must have a responsive web site; it must be mobile-friendly. We use our cell phones to look everything up rather than a computer. Accessing information easily is what millennials are all about.

Third, a key to advertising and reaching millennials is having someone of similar age do the talking. We like to hear from our own generation because we can relate to them: we have similar interests, viewpoints, and are more likely to trust what they are saying. But what if you are not a millennial? I have a suggestion to overcome this. Remember, we like to do things differently from other generations. Embrace modern methods of communication that are second nature to us like text messaging, video chat, or even email rather than a phone call. If you communicate in a way that is most comfortable to me, you’re more likely to earn a repeat customer because you put me at ease and you get me.

Lastly, when opening a menu what’s the first thing you notice? The picture! It’s the first thing that everyone notices; millennials like things with a modern, clean design not drab and old. Think about this when designing menus, logos or showing us sales information. Does your brand image need to be updated?

Who's dining out?
Technomic reports that Millennials dine out the most when compared to Gen X’s and Boomers.

Technomic’s article, “Understanding the Foodservice Attitudes and Behaviors of Millennials”, emphasizes the size, spending power and high foodservice patronage of this generation when compared to any other generational group. Millennials like information, the challenge is getting the information to appeal to us. We are a generation shaped by technology. And we are influencers.

About our Guest Blogger
Hailey is a college student from Missouri. She just finished her first semester and plans on a career in health or business. We asked her, as a Millennial, to provide perspective on what is important to them and how to be successful in selling to this generation. If you have a question for Hailey, leave a reply below.