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Turkey: A Popular Restaurant Delight All-Year-Round, Especially To Students

Yes, that’s what they say: diners love to eat turkey all year round, not just during Thanksgiving.

This is especially true among older students, as turkey is said to have become increasingly popular in college campuses. In Tulane University, for instance, turkey is considered as the top carved menu item on Sodexo menus, and one protein that majority of the students often order to eat. Sodexo is one of the widely-used food service facilities management among America’s schools.

Tom Beckman, general manager of Sodexo at Tulane University, says that this trend has raw implications in the foodservice circle. “Today’s students, otherwise known as the ‘Food Network Generation,’ are the ones who decide what ought to be in a restaurant’s menu—be it a simple mom-and-pop place or a fine dining restaurant,” he said. “They’re the ones who push the needle this time, and restaurant R&D chefs, in their quality chef apron, listen, knowing that these kids are the future.”

Indeed, turkey has ceased to be merely a holiday protein. Statistics from the National Turkey Federation show that way back 1970, 50% of turkey were consumed during holidays. These days, that number has gone down to 31%–and that’s not bad news, really, considering that turkey’s per capita consumption since 1970 has increased by as much as 102%. As of 2010, the per-capita consumption of this fowl is at 16.4 pounds per person.

Last year, a total of 1.5 million pounds of turkey have been served by Sodexo to college campuses. This, according to one of Sodexo’s spokesmen, Gregory Yost. “And if we take the whole year’s operations in all of Sodexo’s locations, that would be 4.9 million pounds,” he added.

Quick-service restaurants are also at it, like Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. They now offer turkey burgers to their younger diners.

Beckmann rationalizes that turkey’s popularity has something to do with the “healthy” perception that people have with the meat—its lesser fat count, for one—so much so that it has been considered a comfort food by many. “Turkey is a comfortable dish, especially to young students, as it also reminds them of home,” said Beckmann.

Students love carved and on-the-bone turkey. “When we offer carve turkey for a certain meal period, it often accounts for 65 to 70% of our total menu mix,” he continued. “That is a lot higher than when we serve other carved meats, like ham or roast beef.”

This past year, Beckmann’s group in Tulane, including their able chefs in their cool chef apron, roasted a total of 290 whole, 14-pound turkeys. And that figure was reported prior to Thanksgiving. The numbers are expected to rise, considering that there have been a vast number of students, especially those from abroad, who were not able to make it home during the holidays.