School is back in session and it’s time to put your business to the test. Appeal to college students and boost sales with these tips.

Prep Courses

It’s no secret that college students love their snacks, and with the snacking trend exploding, it’s easier to implement than ever. Think upscale or creative twists on the classic college comfort foods: ramen, mac ‘n’ cheese, grilled cheese, pizza, breakfast burritos, etc. And don’t forget those with dietary restrictions. Having a menu that caters to a multitude of diets or dishes that can easily be made vegan, gluten-free, keto-friendly, etc., can appeal to more of them and increase their loyalty.

Earn some extra credit by offering a limited late-night munchies menu for students to buy food after the dining halls are closed. Egg rolls, ice cream sandwiches, walking nachos, or build-your-own-bowls are all perfect options for those late-night study sessions.

Ace Online Ordering

Students are busy juggling class, exams, working part time, and managing a social life. They need their food options to be quick, easy, affordable, and tasty. And while grabbing a bite with their friends will always be the more popular choice, takeout and delivery are essential, and recent studies show Gen Zers favor tech-powered convenience. In fact, nearly half of college students want more on-campus dining options to offer delivery, according to research.

Make sure your online ordering system is seamless, with an easily accessible menu, a foolproof curbside program, and ensure you partner with a reliable third-party delivery service to get meals delivered to their doors, off-campus housing, or library. Performance Foodservice One Source partner Sauce can help grow and streamline your online ordering and delivery service, so you can focus on what you do best.

A Lesson in Social Media

A social media presence is a given for all businesses these days, but your social channels need to be eye-catching, unique, and elicit a sense of urgency to attract younger crowds. You can also test-drive the popularity of seasonal LTOs, promote events, and build relationships with the community.

Posting a tempting, high-quality photo of an LTO dessert, a selfie wall, or interactive contest targeting the student demographic is a cost-effective, but high-impact way to attract college students. Encourage them to snap photos on their visits, tag your business, and then reshare on your pages to engage with them and build rapport. Also, consider partnering with foodie influencer students.

Root For the Home Team

College sports are among the most exciting parts of the college experience. Since many students attend tailgates or parties before games, it's an excellent opportunity for your restaurant to get involved. Host game-day watch parties, offer themed food and drink specials, deck out your eatery with college colors, and pass out some swag like foam fingers, pom poms, or colored beads to entice college sports fans to dine with you over a competitor.

For a chance to upsell, offer a special mug or cup with the school’s mascot, or a t-shirt with your logo on the back. Increase your odds by offering a special discount for students who come in with their college ID and partner with the local university to market your promotions to students.

Higher Ed Experiences

Gen Zers are all about unique experiences. Pop-ups, pop culture-themed nights, trivia, or a movie screening can be all it takes to bring them in. Offer small prizes for game nights or a coupon for a free app on their next visit to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business.

If your local college has a culinary program, offer an opportunity for students to visit your restaurant and learn from your chefs for the day. This will help build a relationship with the culinary program and give you access to future talent.

Care Packages

Who doesn’t love getting a little love in the form of a care package while away at school? Cookies, candy, sodas, popcorn, and other nostalgic comfort food – it’s an easy strategy to win over hungry, busy students.

Takeout and to-go kits were extremely popular during the pandemic and marketing a signature box as a “College Care Pack” at a budget-friendly price is a great additional revenue stream. Offer a la carte items like coffee, tea, and power bars, or partner with local businesses for small goods like candles, school supplies, and travel mugs to increase appeal.

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