Trends & News

Summer Camps

Summer Camp Foodservice is a fairly unique entity within the foodservice industry. With very limited lead-time huge numbers of campers are fed for a short window of time and then operations are suspended for another year. With seasonal hires and lots of entry-level workers, it’s important for operators to keep service simple with ready-to-serve solutions that deliver big flavors without requiring complex labor. Some operators may choose to participate in the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program to ensure that no kids go hungry when school is out in which case they’ll need solutions that meet USDA guidelines for healthy childhood nutrition. While summer camps vary widely in their size, format, and location, all share similar needs when it comes to serving up delicious large volume meals to campers while staying mindful of labor and food costs.

College & University

Enrolling Local Foods

With more and more of their students engaged on food and environmental issues, College and University dining operations are increasingly adding locally produced foods to the menu. In the 2015 C&U Census by Food Service Director, 94% of colleges reported buying at least some of their food products locally to meet student demand. Local foods were one of the topics in focus at the 21st annual Chef Culinary Conference at the University of Massachusetts, where participants discussed the role of “food as content,” with students wanting to make choices about what they eat and have a say in what is offered. Local foods may be a hit with students, but they present their own unique challenges in terms of cost and logistics. Produce continues to top the list of local foods found in C&U kitchens, but rather than creating entire dishes from local products some operators are delivering on this trend by purchasing smaller amounts of perishable local produce to add to ready-made products like Reser’s Potato Salad as an easy solution to putting local on the menu.

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Fighting for healthy solutions

School nutrition programs are on the front lines of the fight to ensure kids are eating healthier and while everyone agrees on the importance of this work we still face many challenges in achieving our goal. At the end of 2014 the School Nutrition Association (SNA) released the results of a survey that revealed how many programs are struggling in this new paradigm. Only 18% of the respondents anticipate that their programs will break even this year and a full 92% reported that rising costs pose a “serious” or “moderate” challenge to their programs. All of this while programs seek out new ways to deliver whole grain nutrition through low sodium foods that meet the USDA’s meal plan requirements. It’s an important time for all of us to be focused on child nutrition because it is only by working together that we can find the right solutions to ensure the health of our children and our school nutrition programs for the long term.

Fast Casual

Redefining the Way Americans Eat

Fast Casual is one of the most exciting segments in modern foodservice, growing rapidly and redefining the way Americans eat. With an incredible boom of 550% percent growth since 1999 – more than 10 times the growth the fast-food industry saw in the same period – Fast Casual took in $21 billion in American consumer spending in 2014. Such rapid expansion has been driven in part by a huge diversity of concepts racing in to meet the seemingly inexhaustible consumer demand, so offering an exact definition of Fast Casual can be challenging. The National Restaurant Association’s Fast Casual Industry Council’s definition comes down to two key factors: quality food and fair prices. As more and more operators seek to either enter the Fast Casual segment or to draw customers now accustomed to the Fast Casual experience, vendors who can deliver high-quality solutions while lowering costs will be essential to reach that same sweet spot that is poised to only grow sweeter with time. 

The Power of Sides

Variety is the most important spice in your pantry.

More than ever, your guests want choices. Whether it’s their choice of side or the ability to customize a dish to their own tastes variety is no long an option, it’s essential. Unique side dishes can help you stand out, ensuring delighted diners and repeat business. And while adding variety to your side selections will help you ring up additional profits, it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. With the right products and a dash of creativity, you can harness the power of sides without breaking a sweat.

Some Delicious Numbers: There’s plenty of profit to be had away from the center of the plate according to research firm Technomic’s Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report. Here are a few tasty figures that show why the side show is now the main event!



Foodservice Trends for 2015

  •  Competition is evolving as grocery stores and other retailers continue to expand prepared food options, and new solutions grow line online meal preparation/planning sites.
  • Capture your share of the plate by considering menu options that fit the health and wellness trend, while providing creative solutions to appeal to the adventurous diner.
  • Consider the importance of the price/value equation when building menu solutions and promotional offerings.
  • Leverage digital tools and tactics, including social media, to drive diner loyalty and facilitate great dining experiences.
  • The diner’s path-to-the-plate is complex and fluid, with convenience, budget, family/friends and occasion all important influencers in the decision process.


Key Takeaways for Foodservice Operators from The Why? Behind the Dine™ (Acosta in partnership with Technomic, July 2014)

Daypart Focus: Dinner

Navigating shifting consumer demands

Once there was a time when popular advertising blanketed the airwaves and told us exactly what’s for dinner (hint: moo), but today it’s nearly impossible to pin down what Americans want on the dinner table. From culinarily adventurous Baby Boomers exploring new cuisines to daypart agnostic Millennials blurring the lines on what is considered a proper evening meal, dinner has never been more of a free-for-all. It’s an exciting time for operators but, as a wise uncle once told Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility.” While there has never been a better time to enjoy the freedom to experiment with dinner menu offerings, operators owe it to themselves to maintain a diverse selection of dishes – offering variety in cuisine, size, ingredients, etc. – in order to satisfy the shifting demands of consumers and keep them coming back for more. It’s easier to prescribe exact solutions for more specific trends like the American love of Mexican food or the continuing strength of barbecue, but here the best advice to operators is to seek out solutions that make it easy to remain nimble and keep their dinner menu fresh.