A veteran of university foodservice, Emily heads up Foodesign's Strategic Planning projects.
5 Ways to Avoid Food Fatigue in your Dining Facility
Everyone has their favorite food. Mine is sushi.
I remember when I first discovered my love of sushi. I ate it every night for a week!
After those glorious seven days, I went months without craving or even wanting it.
Why is that? I had food fatigue.
Familiarity can be comforting for some, but for others it can be exhausting. When the same menu items are consistently available, it doesn’t take long for your customers to begin falling away from food fatigue.
The Problems with Food Fatigue
Here are just a few problems associated with food fatigue:
Skipping meals and malnutrition
With a busy class schedule, it's all too easy for a student to bail on your dining facility if it doesn't keep their attention. It's already hard enough to promote healthy eating, disinterest should never be on the list of reasons to eat poorly.
When the food is always the same, faculty and staff will find elsewhere to spend their meals. Students will begin to seek out other local restaurant options. Grocery and convenience stores suddenly become viable meal options, and all of that could have been spent in your dining facility.
Negative Word of Mouth
With nearly half of college students admitting that their school's food factored into their final decision to enroll, food fatigue has a very real affect on student recruitment and retention. Parents, too, tend to take it personally when their child reports that they're sick to death of the food. And students talk... they have friends and/or siblings still in high school that might otherwise have visited if the food had been remarkable.
Campus Dining Tweaks to Help Prevent Food Fatigue
With some easy “tweaks” to your menu, you can cut this unfortunate phenomenon off at the pass:
1. Shorter Menu RotationsSure, this requires more planning work upfront, but going from a monthly rotation to a bi-weekly rotation can greatly decrease the possibility of food fatigue.
2. Limited Time Offers (LTOs)
Is there a menu offering that you’ve been wanting to try out? Adding it as a Limited Time Offer is a great way to shake up the menu and gain valuable feedback from your customers. It enables you to adjust the recipe before deciding to make it a permanent fixture.
3. Feature an Employee’s Menu ConceptIt will foster creativity for your staff, and you may find yourself a menu item home-run.
4. Offer seasonal itemsFeature in-season and local ingredients. The farm-to-table trend is not going anywhere as more college students care about where their food is coming from than their predecessors. This can also lead to a cost-savings with vendors that may be running a special deal for produce and proteins that they have in abundance. Think supply and demand.
5. Promote your Dining Facility around CampusUtilize your dining marketing to help get the word out to administrative offices and buildings that aren’t usually thought of when advertising. Blast your dining social media and create some buzz on what new and exciting food your chefs are creating. You may find this will boost your followers and shares, which will help get your message out to a broader market.
Incorporating one or all the above thoughts can prevent food fatigue at your dining establishment.
In doing so, you can improve your chances of retaining a student on a dining plan for the semester or years to come.
Avoiding Food Fatigue Improves Student Satisfaction
Not only will you attract more students to your dining facility, but you also can improve student satisfaction by showing them that your dining program is innovative and actively engaged in the upcoming trends, all while introducing your students to a new array of flavors that they may not have tried.
A student may go to a class for 1-2 hours between once and three times a week, but will go to your dining facilities (or other food service locations) for 1-2 hours every day.
You have the opportunity to serve the student population more often than any single professor. Consider switching up your menu to keep food fatigue at bay.
I'm full of ideas like these... If this post piqued your interest, please feel free to reach out!
Let's figure out what we can do to make your dining facility even more amazing.