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State of the Market

Bush’s Best Beans Foodservice Presents Trends in College Dining Services

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

As fall approaches, colleges and universities are preparing to welcome students for the 2020-2021 academic year. Many of these higher education institutions have been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began during the spring semester. As schools reopen, dining services professionals face two challenges: they must keep students and staff safe, and they need to generate sales to offset decreased revenues from the spring shutdown. Meanwhile, they must keep up with the latest menu trends, including hot new flavors, portable items and plant-based foods.

In July Informa Engage and Bush’s Best Beans conducted a survey to gain insight into the current sentiment of C&U operators and gauge their outlook for the Fall 2020 semester and beyond. Respondents represented mostly four-year colleges, and were almost evenly divided between self-operated and contract-managed dining services. While a large percentage of the respondents were from schools in the Northeastern U.S., operators from across the nation were represented.

AMONG THE KEY FINDINGS

A large majority of respondents expect a decrease in enrollment for the upcoming school year, and a majority of respondents believe instruction will consist of a mix of online and in-person learning.

Most respondents predict a decrease in meal plan sales, and less than half expect an increase in meal prices.

Operators also expect a significant decrease in catering sales and in sporting event concessions sales.

To remedy this revenue shortfall, operators plan to implement an array of operational changes, from added services to menu innovations.

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