Campus Dining: 2030 and Beyond 

An academic research project into the future of campus dining. 

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Campus Dining 2030 and Beyond Report

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About the ‘Campus Dining: 2030 and Beyond’ Report

Original data and analysis offer new strategies in an evolving industry


The National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS) is pleased to release its “Campus Dining: 2030 and Beyond” report, a culmination of more than a year’s worth of quantitative and qualitative research and analysis by expert researchers and leaders in the field. The report reveals the values of a new generation of students as both customers and employees, as well as non-student staff and management, emphasizing the growing importance of flexibility, storytelling and technology as the industry evolves.

“Coming into 2024, our institutions are already planning for 2030 and beyond," said NACUFS President and CEO Robert Nelson. "While we don’t pretend to have a crystal ball, NACUFS has brought to bear our best possible calculations, data, and expertise—along with the vital insights of our highly knowledgeable membership—to explore known and unknown potentialities and to lay a foundation for what is possible. Ultimately, we are responsible for creating our future and charting the course that we most sincerely desire. This report will prove an invaluable tool in that process.”

The 134-page examination contains insights from survey data, interviews, focus groups, and an innovative think tank, which apply to both front-of-house and back-of-house operations. Due in part to the shock delivered by COVID-19 that intensified existing workforce challenges, a paradigm shift is underway in the foodservice industry. Spurred by these developments, NACUFS engaged academic researchers at Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management to undertake a 360-degree review of collegiate foodservice to identify opportunities and challenges expected to confront the industry in 2030 and beyond. The research provides a robust foundation for strategic decision-making among institutional foodservice organizations.

NACUFS Chairman Kory Samuels noted the relevance of the report at this moment.

“Each campus dining leader has a unique duty to our students, who are themselves building the future as we’ll know it – and as our children’s children will know it," Samuels said. "This is a huge responsibility and one we must embrace at this time of change and uncertainty. Across the higher ed landscape, campus dining leaders are helping to shape the future every day. By serving so much more than food, we are empowering the next generation. This research will help us create the best possible future for campus dining and for the students we impact.”

The report was first unveiled at “Charting Transformation: Redesigning Campus Dining for Tomorrow – An Executive Leadership Symposium,” a day-and-a-half NACUFS event in December that brought together leaders, researchers and experts for high-impact collaboration and dialogue. The event expanded on the report, further developing a positive vision for the industry while also applying it to attendees’ individual dining operations.

Genesis for the Project 

NACUFS’ leaders are of the belief that, in part, due to the COVID shock to the system and a chronic challenge with attracting and retaining great talent, which COVID pushed to crisis levels, a paradigm shift is taking place in the foodservice industry, including collegiate dining. Therefore, NACUFS engaged a Florida International University academic research team with expertise in foodservice and consumer behavior to conduct research into the future of collegiate dining. The Campus Dining: 2030 and Beyond research project is a 360-degree review of institutional foodservice with a major focus on the collegiate environment. The goal of the review was to identify opportunities and challenges expected to confront collegiate dining in 2030 and beyond. The report does not set the strategic direction of NACUFS; that is determined by the NACUFS Board of Trustees.   


NACUFS has proactively sponsored this research to ensure that our members have additional data, information, and knowledge that will allow them to make more informed, sound and forward-thinking foodservice system design decisions. The project involved an innovative approach which married pure academic research with practical applications through the employment of a think tank process, coupled with standard, primary qualitative and quantitative research techniques. The resulting data was analyzed to identify possible future operating strategies and distilled into recommendations.


The Advisory Board

The Advisory Board, comprised of collegiate foodservice industry leaders, was intentionally diverse and served the Florida International University research team to ensure the project is inclusive of many viewpoints. Similar to generally accepted strategy development methods, the board ensured that the research/research design considered the immediate environment as well as the broader environment or context. Ultimately, the research design, including the protocols and methodology decisions, were determined by the research team, not the advisory board. To learn more about the members of the Campus Dining: 2030 and Beyond Advisory Board, click here.

The Research Team

The project was undertaken by the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, Florida International University. The Principal Investigator is Andrew Moreo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Director of Research and the Co-Principal Investigator is Lisa Cain, Ph.D., Associate Professor (Consumer Behavior and Marketing). The Principal Investigators were supported by a research team and project management personnel from the Dean’s Office. The research team included professors in the fields of foodservice, organizational behavior, consumer behavior, and information technology. To learn more about the members of the research team, click here.


Phase one of the research project launched late fall 2022. This initial qualitative research helped inform refinement of the research protocol and was used to design the survey instrument(s) used in the quantitative phase of the research.

Phase two of the research launched in early 2023. This phase utilized quantitative research techniques, including random sampling methodology. 

Phase three of this project was a think tank. This qualitative research component took place in fall 2023. Using innovative design, a diverse group of think tank participants engaged in facilitated dialogue as the researchers work to identify practical applications based on the data and information gathered during earlier research phases.

Finally, the results were published in a publication specifically for campus foodservice operators. It was also shared at a symposium that included opportunities for learning and exploration.  


Chartwells Higher Education, Sodexo, and US Foods have contributed a portion of the costs to NACUFS to support the project. Their contributions have not impacted the research outcomes. NACUFS is the research sponsor and has unilaterally engaged Florida International University.