Customisation is KING for your student experience

Tuesday, 13 March 2021

Foodbuy is a worldwide organisation, 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.

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 essentially anyone born between 1997 and 2015. Whilst 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 reasons 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 students, post-Covid

  • Create great environments. With socialising limited and learning digitalised for the last year, students will be eager to collaborate and meet with friends – and what’s better than doing that 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 they can spend the day will be key.
  • Upsell, upsell, upsell. Think about how you up-sell 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 incentivising students to return. Other businesses are thinking outside of the box with social value schemes like charity top-up contributions on the cost of your food and drink
  • Breed confidence. 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 favourite 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 – great quality, socially conscious food and drink

  • Value over cost. Today’s student wants a good quality product. It’s less about cost and more about value for 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 procurement organisations can help by leveraging their scale and negotiating improved terms on great quality produce
  • Moral compasses. Students will be looking closely at their moral compasses, only wanting to buy from brands they can trust. In fact, 50% of Gen Z’s report that knowing a brand is socially conscious influences their purchasing decisions. Your offer needs to reflect this mentality and expect to be challenged on it by students. Consider adding prompts to your menus and signage to promote great stories across your 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

Service – enticing students with new food and beverage experiences

  • Memorable experiences. For those dining in, they want the experience. They don’t just want a coffee, they want the theatre to go with it. They want an experience they can capture and share across social media, so the more “Instagram-able”, the better.
  • Brand activation. Gen Z are tech savvy and want experiences that allow them to get closer to the brand and product. Think about customisation; allowing students to customise the way their product arrives. Also ensure you are maximising 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!

Eamonn Bennett, Catering and Commercial Services Manager at St Clare's, Oxford said:

“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”.

Get in touch today

Today’s generation of students expect a great venue, a great menu and even greater service – and those businesses that move with the times are those that will be successful when it comes to building brand loyalty with students.

Foodbuy supports education clients across all types of universities, colleges and schools with these types of challenges day-in, day-out. If we can be of any assistance as you seek to adapt your operation, please contact us here.