students infront of building

The Elon Experience

Elon is known for its premier student-centered environment and focus on experiential learning. The historic 636-acre campus is designated as a botanical garden and includes the 56-acre Elon University Forest, a land preserve and natural area for scientific research, and Loy Farm, a center for environmental research and sustainability. Elon empowers students to be ambitious, curious, and compassionate— essential skills in becoming vanguards for positive change. Paired with Elon’s dedication to educating the whole student, the introduction of Harvest Table Culinary Group has been a perfect match on campus.

Harvest Table partnered with Elon University to bring new life to the dining program. Our executive chef and other members of the culinary team focused their approach on responsibly sourcing fresh, seasonal, high-quality ingredients from local farms and businesses.

We interviewed Laura Thompson to hear how Elon’s unique goal to connect living and learning on campus is keeping students happy.

student community eating
Elon’s farm-to-table dinners are stunning with rustic picnic tables making any outdoor location on campus feel like a farm. FOOD MANAGEMENT MAGAZINE

What’s unique about Elon?

One unique thing at Elon is food is engrained with curriculum. Harvest Table even funds a dining engagement coordinator. Their main job is to connect dining and student life—it’s a unique opportunity to have this position and allows us to get in the classroom and talk food.

What kind of skills go into creating the right team?

Personality and talent. Chef Jay was the perfect fit for our executive chef opening. He has a huge personality. He loves being out there, talking to students and has the culinary experience to back it up.

How is Elon’s meal plan unique?

Menus are our priority. Everything from revenue to student satisfaction revolves around the meal plan. When we created our spring and fall meal plans, we wanted it to be exciting and unexpected. We focused on quality and variety, but also had an event every day to shake things up. Laura Thompson
fruit bowl

How have you lowered the attrition rate?

When we started there was an 8-9% attrition rate. After, we focused on student experience, we were at 4%. We were walking the walk. We had the same goal, the right team, marketing support, and we’re listening to student feedback to improve.

Do any specific events stand out?

students petting a cow
Our partnership with Carolina Culture yogurt and smoothies helped them grow their business. They asked if they could bring one of their new cows on campus to show students (most of whom have never seen a cow that close). They loved it, and we had an opportunity to share where their food is really coming from.  Laura Tompson

Anything exciting for the future?

Elon runs a farm and we’re hoping to grow some unique produce to use on campus. Chef Jay also started Harvest Table Dinners. Twelve students are chosen to experience a 5-course meal as Chef Jay walks them through the food story. These were such a hit, we plan to have more than one per month next year.

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We are excited to be back on Grounds at @uva tomorrow! Come meet our team of passionate food enthusiasts as we share what we bring to the table. Follow @harvesttableuva for more information!
Tonight’s the night! @ravensymone leads masterful cake and sugar artists through holiday battles packed with mind-blowing, holiday themed creations. Help us cheer on @chefmina16 and her team, Treat Yo Elf, in #holidaywars on @foodnetwork at 8pm EST!
We are excited to announce that our pastry chef and three time @foodnetwork competitor @chefmina16 will be competing on season 2 Holiday Wars which premiers this Sunday, November 1 at 8pm EST! Join us in cheering on Chef Mina and team Treat Yo Elf throughout the competition! #holidaywars
Pull up a seat and get ready to experience food service done differently with us today at @aashenews #GCSHE virtual conference. Make sure to tune in to our on demand session where our chefs show us how to get creative using spare ingredients as well as @chefmthompson seminar with @farmforward on how we approach food sourcing. See you soon!
The story of food begins with a farmer. Today is a day to celebrate #nationalfarmersday and thank them for all of their hard work cultivating the land to provide for our community. Next week, our Chief Culinary Officer @chefmthompson will be joining @farmforward at the #GCSHE virtual conference and expo to discuss how we approach food sourcing and our partnerships with local farmers.
We went one-on-one with parents and students to learn more about their expectations around returning to campus. Discover what we found and the emerging opportunities to exceed those expectations in the #linkinbio👆
#beNICEday - to yourself and to others! We think everyone deserves a little sweetness like these grilled peaches with housemade cinnamon whipped cream made by @chef_vetter #mondayinspiration
Thank you to all of those who have donated and are participating in @nacasnational virtual run this week. As a reminder, there are TWO days left to participate, you got this! #NACASCARES #WhyWeCare
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As students return to campus, we know they are facing a whole new level of uncertainty during these unprecedented times. Which is why @nacasnational launched their new NACASCARES Annual Giving Campaign to help provide funding such as housing, counseling, and food to students. The Harvest Table Culinary Group leadership team is participating in this years run/walk on 9/28-10/4 to support this amazing cause. Join us to help make a difference! linkinbio #whywecare #nacascares