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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