What are college students noshing on these days? Gen Z now dominates campuses, and this age group has a few surprises in store that can impact how restaurant operators get their business. Spoiler alert: Some all-time favorites (smoothies, anyone?) may no longer be top picks. Here are seven menu items that students are craving more now than they were two years ago, and three unexpected food and beverage items falling from favor, according to Technomic’s new College and University Consumer Trend Report.
1. Oui oui, French cuisine
Not too haute for college students these days, a growing number say they are interested in ordering French menu items. About three in 10 college students (28%) say they’d be likely to order French food items at least occasionally if offered, up from 23% in 2015.
2. Spicing it up with Indian
A world away from French food, Indian food is also increasingly piquing college students’ interests. Three in 10 college students (29%) say they’d like to order Indian menu items every so often if offered, compared to 24% of students who said the same two years ago.
3. Street foods move inside
College students look for portability, authenticity and ethnic fare on the menu—three attributes that come together in street foods. More than two fifths (42%) of students are likely to order international street foods, a percentage that should continue to increase along with the snacking trend.
4. Snack foods and appetizers for lunch
Nearly a quarter of college students (23%) say they prefer to make their lunch meal out of snack foods or appetizers, compared to 18% of these consumers who said the same in 2015—think nachos, samosas, bao buns, empanadas and other international street foods, as mentioned before.
6. Chicken for dinner
Chicken is hot these days, and that trend rings true among college students as well. Almost half of all students (46%) say they most prefer chicken for dinner, up from 39% in 2015. Chicken satisfies protein and health demands, especially in light of recent industry movement toward antibiotic-free poultry.
7. Fruit gains as a snack
The growing interest in healthier choices also extends to snacking—36% of students are looking for healthy snack options. Fresh fruit now tops the list as the most popular snack, with 43% of C&U students saying they prefer fresh fruit as a snack, up from 34% in 2015.
8. Fruit juice is down
When it comes to fruit, students are looking for whole fruits and fresh fruit combos, not juice. Fruit juice has declined as a beverage choice for breakfast, falling from 50% to 43%, with water claiming the No. 1 spot at 56%. The high sugar content of fruit juice may be a turnoff with today’s health-conscious young consumers.
9. Smoothies are losing fans
Along with fruit juice, smoothies are on the downturn. Only 19% of students would choose a smoothie for breakfast, a drop from 26% in 2015. Perhaps the focus on all-day breakfast on many campuses is providing students with more substantial and less expensive choices, pushing smoothies to the back burner.
10. Move over, breakfast burritos
Also relegated to the back burner are breakfast burritos, sandwiches and wraps—they have fallen in favor from 31% in 2015 to 24% today. Again, all-day breakfast programs are bringing more varied and exciting fare to the menu. Maybe it’s time to rethink these items that have been around since Gen Zers were kids.