Examples of Innovative Campus Dining Programs that Have Grown Institution Revenue

The universities of Duke and Tulane are two examples of innovative campus dining programs that have grown institution revenue while satisfying student demands.

Duke University

  • Duke University stands apart from many of its peers by providing a “very different approach” to on-campus dining for its students.
  • Perhaps most notably, the institution invested in a series of renovations as recently as 2016 which revolutionized the atmosphere of its campus dining locations.
  • Specifically, Duke University implemented an “inviting atmosphere” design at its largest dining halls, which encouraged students to spend more time in these locations by providing a variety of seating options, such as sofas and armchairs for students working on a paper, traditional dining tables to facilitate group eating/working opportunities, booth/bar seating for evening socialization and even patio seating for student enjoyment during more pleasant weather.
  • According to Duke University’s Executive Director of Dining Services Robert Coffey, this carefully crafted atmosphere “contributed to growth in our cash and credit transactions.”
  • Notably, this revenue growth from dining operations came on top of the $37 million in annual revenue that the university was already enjoying from its dining program as of 2014.
  • Other more longstanding contributors to the success of Duke University campus dining program include its wide variety of dining options (with 14 different “local and national restaurant concepts” just in the Broadhead Center dining location) as well as a public commitment to ensuring a sustainable procurement strategy for all of its meal opportunities.
  • Notably, the combination of these carefully crafted and innovative enhancements to campus dining earned Duke University second place within The Daily Meal’s 2018 raking of the “best colleges for food.

Tulane University

  • Meanwhile, Tulane University has achieved tremendous success through its campus dining program by breaking the traditional boundaries between on-campus dining and outside restaurants to provide one of the most varied and flexible dining opportunities for its students.
  • According to Tulane University’s Senior Associate Vice President for University Students Rob Hailey, the institution began adjusting its campus dining program as early as 2005 to be “completely customer-driven” and one that meets student’s top demand for “variety, variety, variety and more variety.”
  • These innovations started by partnering with local food trucks and national restaurants to serve its students on campus as part of normal meal plans.
  • In parallel, Tulane established a joint venture with its neighbor, Loyola University, to create a combined meal plan that would be accepted at both schools.
  • Notably, these two changes alone increased dining options by 30% at Tulane University “without increasing costs.”
  • Subsequently, the university negotiated deals with 25 off-campus outlets (e.g., Pizza Hut, The Halal Guys) to accept Tulane University’s meal plan and thereby capture revenue from students even when they chose to eat off-premise.
  • Lastly, Tulane University implemented its TU Go partnership with Hangry, which enabled students to order meals through an app and pick them up without waiting in line.
  • Ultimately, these efforts have boosted Tfulane University’s $74,388,000 in auxiliary revenue, while simultaneously ranking Tulane University as one of the “best college dining halls” and “best colleges for food” based on student satisfaction.

Other Colleges & Universities of Note

  • Drexel University has taken a different path in embracing students’ interest in variety and earns $27 million in annual revenue through a “retail” inspired campus dining program that prioritizes “on trend” dining options and formats such as vegan/vegetarian cafes, noodle bars and even a college convenience store concept.
  • North Carolina State earns $36 million annually from campus dining through its micro-restaurant concept.
  • Vanderbilt University enjoys annual revenue of $26 million from a campus dining program that is designed and run by graduates of the Culinary Institute of America and other “highly certified executive chefs.”
  • Fairmont State University “keeps students on campus and increases revenue for dining operations” through a variety of innovations including a 24/7 cashless market.
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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