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.

See what we're up to
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Instagram post 2192218578089336999_7773517215 The Harvest Table team was out in full-force this week introducing our inspired food experiences to a new campus community. Interested in dining with us? Check the link in our bio! #harvesttablecg #hospitality #inspiredfood
Instagram post 2183057571769106595_7773517215 #Repost @inharvest with @get_repost
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This week The Farmers Market at High Point (N.C.) University served up these gorgeous tacos filled with a 50/50 blend of ground beef and our flavorful and highly nutritious Greenwheat Freekeh (TM), all seasoned with a spice mix produced by Harvest Table Culinary Group. A qualified hit with students! 🌞
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#grains #wholegrain #wholegrains #legumes #lentils #plantbasedfood #plantbasedfoods #plantforward #vegcentric #betterforyou #ancientgrains #foodservice #foodserviceindustry #foodmanufacturing #foodmanufacturers #foodprocessing #retailfood #privatelabelfoods #naturalfoods #foodinnovation #heirloomgrains #foodtrends #foodtrends2019 #foodtrends2020 #HarvestTableCG #HPUDining #tacos #studentdining #freekeh @harvesttablecg @hpudining @chefjayz
Instagram post 2177916935327848348_7773517215 On the heels of the first snowstorm of the season in Upstate New York, our hospitality team is always ready to welcome Guests to the table! #harvesttablecg
Instagram post 2164909731888859412_7773517215 We are proud to announce that we have partnered with @FarmForward, a non-profit organization that implements innovative strategies to promote conscientious food choices, reduce farmed animal suffering, and advance sustainable agriculture, as part of its Leadership Circle. To read the full announcement, click the link in bio.  #htculinary #farmforward
Instagram post 2104597576904160339_7773517215 Harvest Table is attending the American Culinary Federation’s National Convention -the country’s largest and most prestigious professional chef organization. Two of our chefs became certified this year and are being celebrated on this massive wall on the trade show floor. Congratulations again to Chef Jordan Rogers from @deacondining and Chef Christian Froelich from @hpudining for earning the Certified Executive Chef this year. #acfchefs #acfnatcon @acf_chefs
Instagram post 2101048412343316071_7773517215 We are proud to announce a new partnership with @UniversityofRedlands! Join us this year at the Table at Irvine Commons. Our hospitality team @HTRedlands has been preparing all summer for your arrival! #HTCulinary #hospitality #kitchenbrigade
Instagram post 2096644427123523776_7773517215 Today is a beautiful day for al fresco dining! Our catering team is standing by to help you plan your next event. #HTCulinary #catering #freshlyprepared #locallyprocured
Instagram post 2095233694323039697_7773517215 Fresh herbs are in full abundance in our gardens. This basil, besides being antioxidant-rich, tastes delicious! We use basil in many dishes but is most popular in pasta sauces, pesto sandwich spreads, and fresh salads. #HTCulinary #locallyprocured
Instagram post 2093790682813519865_7773517215 Our Chef's Council gets together every month to innovate new recipes and menus. We'd love to hear from you on subjects for our monthly ideation sessions. Please comment! #HTCulinary #ethnicfood #sustainability #napkintalk
Instagram post 2091616333943154340_7773517215 Our kitchen brigade is committed to scratch, small-batch cookery, personalized at the time of service. We look forward to preparing restaurant quality meals. #HTCulinary #freshlyprepared #smallbatch #personalized #kitchenbrigade
Instagram post 2090160013268818005_7773517215 We value your feedback and strive to meet all special dietary needs. #HTCulinary #napkintalk #guestfeedback
Instagram post 2088702111164384836_7773517215 We pride ourselves on menu transparency. All our menu items are available at our kiosk, at the point of service and online for your mobile device -complete with ingredient and allergen information. #HTCulinary #menutransparency #nutritionallybalanced
Instagram post 2086550674199490598_7773517215 The members of our hospitality team are committed to building communities on campus through inspired food experiences. Come join us at the table! #HTCulinary #community #inspiredfoodexperiences #hospitality
Instagram post 2085093355901930845_7773517215 This is the time of year we work with #localfarmers on growing schedules and crop forecasting to ensure we make the most of #seasonalproduce #HTCulinary #locallyprocured #localproduce #supportfarmers
Instagram post 2083593917697166257_7773517215 Our Chef's Council is busy working on new recipes and curating new menus for you! Can't wait to share them with you next semester! #HTCulinary #kitchenbrigade #recipecollection #freshlyprepared
Instagram post 2048123111993152176_7773517215 Did you know our signature #granolabar changes every season? We have new flavors coming your way! Order for your next #catering event, stop by the market or grab one from a #HTCulinary #restaurant near you! #AdditiveFree #FreshlyPrepared #granola #snack #energyonthego
Instagram post 2045103279456742200_7773517215 Our Chief Culinary Officer, Chef Matthew teamed up with Chef Daniel and represented his ACF Chapter at the New England Chef's Showdown this week and won! Check out the details here: http://bit.ly/2HsD1JG #acfchefs
Instagram post 2044415361952157862_7773517215 What better way to celebrate #NationalChocolateChipDay then with a #FreshlyBaked #ChocolateChipCookie? Our #CookieJar is full; stop on by at #HTCulinary restaurant near you! #AdditiveFree #ResponsiblySourced #FreshlyPrepared #Chocolate #cookiesandmilk
Instagram post 2043049592687048461_7773517215 In the vendor spotlight today is our partners at Maple View Farms, supplying our #restaurants in North Carolina with fresh #icecream! #HTCulinary #LocallyProcured Maple View Farm Ice Cream