IHS helps campuses improve their dining grades

IHS coaches college and university clients with operational consulting and strategic planning for their dining halls, retail food service, restaurants, catering, c-stores, concessions and vending operations.

Typical challenges faced:

  • Maintaining high student participation in residence dining programs.
  • Ensuring the right meal plans and polices are offered to students to maximize participation and revenue.
  • Delivering innovative retail dining options to be competitive with the local off-campus dining scene.
  • Determining if an outsourced dining program is more beneficial for the institution.
  • Maximizing technology to enhance student experience and participation in the dining program.

Results with IHS:

  • Best practice-based solutions for innovative resident dining programs and features to drive participation.
  • Benchmark data of peer institutions and industry best practices for customized meal plan options to meet student needs.
  • Voice of the Customer and programming data to implement brands and concepts more desired by students, faculty and staff.
  • Feasibility studies that quantify the potential of increased commission and capital investment to drive dining service facilities and innovations.
  • Research and validation of proven technologies to be considered for implementation to drive student experiences and dining service effectiveness.

Case Study

Stevens Institute of Technology: College foodservice raises its GPA

Stevens Institute of Technology was in a tough spot — year seven (7)  of a 13-year contract with a Big 3 operator.  Stevens officials were not happy with the services they received or the response of the operator to improve their performance.  In addition, our client felt handcuffed by a substantial investment buyback.

Simultaneously, Stevens’ board rates were validated to be the highest in the Northeast, more expensive than larger universities. Lastly, poor catering services were beginning to seriously tarnish the school’s image and fundraising efforts.


Stevens needed to determine the risk of testing the market mid-contract.  They also wanted to ensure they clearly understood best practices, benchmarks and options. Lastly, they needed to stabilize the catering offerings and begin to prepare for anticipated campus growth.


IHS began by measuring quality to industry benchmarks.

  • Interviewed different stakeholders, including the operator and students.
  • Conducted a comprehensive “voice of the student” process and found that students were not happy with dining services.
  • Held interactive discussions with the client team and defined the future state guidelines through the creation of an Operating Charter.
  • Implemented a Request for Proposals (RFP) process to begin to engage the market.
  • Negotiated a new contract with a new operator built on the Operating Charter requirements.


A thriving relationship with a new operator that saved money; changes pleased students.

  • Received several competitive bids; signed a new 10-year agreement with another Big 3 operator.
  • Lowered student meal plan cost by 25%.
  • Increased client income over 100%.
  • Increased campus investment by 400%.
  • Received higher marks from students on surveys.

IHS has maintained a relationship as an adviser with Stevens and conducts CrossCheck assessments twice a year on campus.

Frequently Asked Questions
Colleges and Universities

IHS provides a range of services to colleges and universities, including strategic planning, visioning sessions, operational and financial assessments, voice of the student surveys, RFPs, contract negotiations and more. We are your ally and adviser, navigating complex processes to deliver innovation, value and student satisfaction.

When your team doesn’t have the time or could benefit from additional campus dining expertise, IHS will be your expert eyes and ears in campus dining and hospitality services, offering continuity, examining your systems, and recommending best practices.

Colleges and universities have been one of the pillars of our management consulting work since our founding in 2006. We’ve worked with small liberal arts schools and large public research universities, using our experience in dining halls, catering, c-stores, retail food service, food halls, markets, restaurants, concessions, vending operations and more.

We’ve helped schools maximize revenue and student satisfaction by ensuring the right meal plans and policies, analyzed the benefits of outsourced and self-operated dining programs, and advised on new and seamless technologies that can improve student dining. Click here to learn how we helped one school improve student satisfaction while trimming its highest-in-the-region meal plan costs.

We work hard to ensure that our clients are just as satisfied as their students. Our clients have praised our team’s experience, our complete commitment to student satisfaction, and the fine-tooth comb we bring to every engagement. We have caught costly omissions in bids, negotiated tough contracts, and identified operational gaps that led to immediate improvements and savings. And we’ve conducted feasibility studies that quantify the impact of large capital project proposals – vital information before that final decision. Our clients are so pleased with their experience that they often have referred their colleagues at other institutions to us.
An IHS operational assessment is a full review of your campus dining program. One or more of our consultants will visit your campus and conduct observations and an in-depth analysis – covering financials, key performance indicators, menus, programming, staffing and labor, retail offerings, the local and comparative market, demographics, sustainability, technology and operator capabilities. We will conduct surveys, focus groups and visioning sessions with key stakeholders.
An IHS visioning session is the foundation of our work with you. We gather all stakeholders into focus groups and guide them through a discussion about the future of your campus food service and amenities. We cover the short term and the long term, going one year, five years and 10 years out. That insight into your operations and goals helps us develop our strategy and recommendations to better work with you. Using that data, we’ll develop your operating charter, which defines and establishes guidelines for our work for you, creating your vision for your college or university.
IHS isn’t simply focused on quick bottom-line savings. We work with you to build a first-rate campus dining and hospitality program, improving the student experience and bringing costs under control. We help our clients get the best value and the best service, finding creative, long-term solutions to complex challenges. We’ll always act independently, with your best interests at the forefront.
No. IHS only contracts with your college or university, always representing the best interest of the institution. With that said, we pride ourselves on collaboration with operators for maximum value to and impact on your campus dining and hospitality programs.

IHS will deliver regular reports to you on our progress and next steps, with the timing dependent on the type of work being performed. At the start of a new client relationship, for example, we typically hold weekly meetings, moving to a less frequent schedule as we enter longer-term work, such as negotiating a contract on your behalf with an operator. (Our CrossCheck service provides long-term monitoring and quality assessments; click here to learn more.) Our contracts outline our specific reporting timetables. We’re committed to keeping you informed, and we will always be flexible to your needs.

A college or university partnership can last from nine months to a year – but our clients often work with us for longer periods to benefit from our expertise and regular assessments. Many engagements align with operator contracts.

IHSPlus is our recently launched program management service for campus dining and hospitality operations. Clients reap the benefits of working side by side with IHS advisers, leveraging their experience on all aspects of your program, and CrossCheck provides measurable results. To learn more, email info@ihsimpact.com.

Many colleges and universities engage IHS in early summer, after graduation, so we can engage in visioning and be ready to assist in implementation of improved program as early as fall – though our team is ready to begin work at any time.

You’ll work with a dedicated consultant as your project manager – but you also have access to the expertise of our entire team. Our consulting team has decades of experience in campus dining, hospitality and amenities. IHS consultants have led food and beverage operations, conference centers, and retail operations for banks and financial services companies, colleges and universities, start-ups, restaurants, and operators. We bring the type of expertise that only comes from years of hands-on experience and a growth mindset. Our team will spend time on-site getting to know you, meeting with your stakeholders, and assessing your operations.

We enjoy long-term partnerships with several leading architectural and design firms and are happy to bring them in to help with visioning, planning and design – always keeping the customer experience and your priorities in mind.

We encourage you to reach out to our clients and review our success stories on our website. If you would like to speak with someone about a specific challenge or scenario that we improved, let us know and we’ll put you in touch.

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