New report reinforces importance & value of on-site university catering

>> On-site university catering operations are continuing to ‘plate up’ when it comes to meeting student needs.

A poll of over 1,500 students, initiated by The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) and undertaken by Qa Research, has confirmed a steady shift in students’ behaviour in their day-to-day eating and drinking patterns.

The ‘Student Eating and Drinking Habits’ report reveals that over 64% of students now regularly use campus catering outlets and convenience stores between midday and 2pm, with 65% enjoying the university  canteen and 75% opting to eat in the university café.

This number has increased against a backdrop of an increasing threat from the high street, which has grown its store spread by over 10% across the UK in

the last two years. Students cite reasons for their choice around cost, value and flexibility as well as the growing choice they are seeing on the counters.

With health, wellness and nutrition leading the broad agenda, university caterers have devoted significant thought to this key area across their procurement

policies, and are seeing a return in dividends as health-conscious students find more to attract them on site. The reduction of fats and sugars were seen as more important than organic although ethical and sustainable procurement remains a factor.

The research threw up a clear indicator of two profiles of students across the sample of male and female students  of varying demographics:

1. Diet Conscious – students who are highly focused and conscious of their diet and this is generally more important to them than convenience and
sometimes cost.

2. Convenience – in a juxtaposition of the above, students for whom a healthy diet is not important and who want filling food – at a time when they want it.

In responding to these profiles, menu choice has becoming increasingly diverse and sophisticated in order to cater for these needs. However, one common thread is that for both types of students, cost is still a big factor and is recognised as being the single most influencer when deciding on a place to eat and drink.

Chair of TUCO, Julie Barker, comments: “The report evidences just how far university catering has come and how important it is for caterers to be right ahead of trends and adapt to need whether in the main canteen facilities, the on-site cafés, across 24-hour vending options and of course fine-dining, which is a growing requirement on-site around events and occasions.     

“Most importantly, the research shows that caterers are listening to their students and responding with solutions, menu choices and services that resonate with them, in today’s ever-demanding society.”