College cafeteria trends (and pizza isn’t 1 of them)

It's not just about burritos and cereal. Today’s campus cafeterias are more like gourmet food halls, serving everything from tapas to rice bowls.

WASHINGTON — Gaithersburg, Maryland-based food services company Sodexo feeds a lot of college students, and what it is feeding them these days is not just pizza and burritos.

Today’s campus cafeterias are more like gourmet food halls, serving everything from tapas to rice bowls.

“Our student customers have grown up eating a wide variety of cuisine from around the world,” said Lisa Feldman, Sodexo’s recipe management director.

“They know what they like but are also adventurous and want to try new foods,” she said.

Sodexo provides food services for more than 600 colleges and universities in North America, and has compiled a list of trends in university dining. Among them:

  • Plant-based options: They may or may not be vegan but vegetables are the focus. At Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, the campus cafeteria include a vegan pasta bar with sauces.


  • Small, sharable plates: Sodexo says tapas, mezzo and antojitos are popular campus cafeteria menu items, including things such as Tikka Masala Turkey Meatballs, Charred Lemon Chimichurri Tacos and Smoked Chicken Chili Mac.


  • Allergy free: More than 120 Sodexo-fed campuses now have food stations with items prepared without shellfish, wheat, dairy, eggs, milk and tree nuts. Some have pantries with gluten-free and nut-free snacks, and kitchen staff are trained on safe food handling.


  • Bowls: Sodexo says bowls are taking over college dining with its offerings including braised Korean pork, penne pasta with spinach and chicken and mole BBQ beef with sweet potato.

“There is something comforting about holding a bowl,” Feldman said.

Sodexo notes college students don’t have the money to eat at high-end restaurants, but it now partners with celebrity chefs to provide restaurant-quality meals at a college campus price.

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