Here’s the deal: tech has become a central part of customer experience in higher ed foodservice. But even the flashiest technology means nothing if you don’t have menu transparency.

Our survey of nearly 800 current college students found that students want connected and cloud-based tech, like digital menu boards, but not if they don’t communicate the information they want to see.

From ingredient lists to nutrition details, students expect to know nearly everything about the available food before they make a choice. And with a whopping 70% of students saying menus play a crucial role in their purchasing decisions, your menu displays are key in the fight for transparency. 

With so many students relying on it, your digital signage can’t be left to chance. In fact, if you don’t provide a transparent experience with your menus, you may as well not have menu boards at all. Let’s dive into why and what you can do about it!

Students want more menu transparency.

When we asked students to rank the most important aspects of their customer experience for on-campus dining, transparent menus ranked higher than digital menus on signs, on mobile, or on the web. Menu transparency even beat out order-ahead technology as a more valuable element of the customer experience! 

However… students also told us that menu transparency could use some improvement

How Menu Transparency Impacts Your Higher Ed Customer Experience

Only 48% of students reported that they were “happy with” the level of transparency on their menu boards, while 47% felt it “could be better.” (Another 5% reported being “often disappointed.”)

It follows, then, that just 25% of students say they feel “very confident” about the information they encounter on their campus’ foodservice menus. The remaining 75% have their doubts, and that number shouldn’t be ignored.

Lack of menu transparency chips away at student trust.

Despite their high expectations, college students tend to be a forgiving bunch and won’t hold the occasional error against you. For example, students told us they really appreciate clean dining areas, fast service, and friendly staff even above menu transparency.   

That said, losing your students’ trust can be a costly mistake in ways that extend far beyond menus.

For example, after spotting inaccurate information, nearly 30% of students told us that they would seek out other dining options moving forward, which includes off-campus restaurants (aka your competition). 

Also, more than 40% of students said they would have less trust in the quality of food. And roughly 57% reported that they would lose trust in the campus dining team. 

Incomplete or inaccurate menu information may seem like a relatively minor hiccup, but for students, these inconsistencies shake their confidence in your operation as a whole. 

Menu transparency is an opportunity!

Student expectations around transparency can feel stressful at times, but they also offer you the chance to make the case for your foodservice operation.

Your campus dining program didn’t come out of nowhere: it’s the product of hard work, attention to detail, and a passion for building a foodservice students will love. More than anything, students’ craving for in-depth menu information is proof that this hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.  

Demands for menu transparency may be a challenge, but they also represent a chance to showcase your work. Intuitive, well-designed signage that stays automagically updated from one source of menu truth can highlight your efforts while also giving students what they need to dine with confidence.

Want a closer look at everything our survey discovered? Check out this infographic, or scroll down to see links to previous blog posts in this series!

How Menu Transparency Impacts Your Higher Ed Customer Experience

You can also catch up on past blog posts in this series:

Part one: Here's the Digital Menu Information College Students Want to See
Part two:
Over 70% of College Students Say Menu Boards Matter — Here's Why
Part three:
3 Things Make Digital Dining Experiences Great, Say College Students