Foodbuy is a worldwide organization, operating in the US, Canada, the UK, Europe and Australia. Having an international footprint expands what we see and hear, providing us with unique perspectives. We’ve assembled a team of global research analysts to offer actionable insights for your business. This dedicated group will deliver a series of articles to inform you about current trends in our industry – in your own backyard, and around the world. This series takes a look at how user experience is evolving post-COVID. This article takes a look at how student experience in education dining will change. 

Customization is King for Your Student Experience

As an education provider, the student experience needs to be top of mind when it comes to planning your operation.

The modern-day student belongs to Generation Z (Gen Z), which is anyone born between 1997 and 2015. While Millennials were raised during an economic boom, Gen Z grew up during a recession meaning they are typically more pragmatic. They also have more ethnically diverse appetites and grew up in the digital age with technology, the internet and social media part of mainstream life. These are all important factors for you to consider when shaping your student experience.

Here we focus on three core components of your offer – Venue, Menu and Service – offering hints and tips from our global teams to reflect the latest generation of students.

Venue: Interacting with Student Experience, Post-COVID

Create Great Environments

With socializing limited and learning digitalized for the last year, students will be eager to collaborate and meet with friends. Where better to meet than over some food or a coffee? Creating the right environment to suit your students – not too noisy and not too quiet – with comfy, sound-proofed spaces in which they can spend the day will be key.


Think about how you upsell and keep students as your customer all day long. For instance, loyalty cards and apps have seen a real resurgence and are a great way of incentivizing students to return. Other businesses are thinking outside of the box with social value schemes like charity contributions on the cost of your food and drink.

Breed Confidence in Your Venue

With social distancing measures here to stay, food and beverage outlets are now a very different setup. However, students will be keen to return to their favorite food and beverage experiences. Think about how you can breed confidence across your offer by replacing salad bars and self-serve options, as well as implementing protective screens and better venue flow systems with stickers and signage.

Menu: High Quality & Socially Conscious Food and Drink

Value Over Cost

Today’s student wants a good quality product and better value for their money. Think local, artisan and craft; sell food and drink that will help to create memorable experiences that set you apart from your competition. Group purchasing organizations can help by leveraging their scale and negotiating improved terms on great quality produce.

Tell a Story

Students will be looking closely at their moral compasses, only wanting to buy from brands they can trust. Telling the story of where food comes from can help the student align with your brand. Consider adding prompts to your menus and signage to promote great stories from across the supply chain.

Go Digital

Digital menus, as an example, are a great investment. They allow you to change pricing instantly, amend menus by day-part, add seasonal promotions and much more. If you’re a multi-site operator, it also allows you to drive consistency and compliance across your estate. It also makes for quicker and more COVID-safe ordering experience for students, eliminating the need to touch paper menus.

Service: Enticing Student Experiences

Memorable Student Experience

For those dining in, they want the experience. They don’t just want a coffee, they want the theater to go with it. They want an experience they can capture and share across social media.

Brand Activation

Gen Z are tech-savvy and want experiences that allow them to get closer to the brand and product. Think about allowing students to customize the way their product arrives. Also ensure you are maximizing the benefit of our digitally conscious consumer by getting students to do your marketing for you; make it easy for them to share their experiences.

“The aim for us at St Clare’s from the beginning was about creating an atmosphere that cannot be found anywhere else on site, a place that has a buzz about it, open all day. Efficient and slick during meal service times but also relaxed and welcoming, all day long.

We’ve created nice open spaces between the Café and Servery, with great Wi-Fi service and a mixture of more formal seating as well as some soft and comfortable furniture so whether students want to gather sociably, or catch up on some work with a coffee, then we’ve got it covered.

A hub for all things non-academic where students can suit themselves, or an area where staff can arrange meetings too, or even just the place we all go to eat… we are open to serve students and staff from 8am – 10pm every day.

Students have so much quality choice on the high-street, but we wanted to be the best option for them and it has given the whole College a huge lift”.

-Eamonn Bennett
Catering and Commercial Services Manager, St Clare’s, Oxford, United Kingdom

Empower Your Procurement

Understand your savings and rebate potential with a complimentary market basket analysis.

Get started