Posts Tagged With: cafeteria

Customer Satisfaction Survey…the results are in!

One of my rotation objectives this week was to come up with a customer satisfaction survey, gather results, and write a summary which includes recommendations for new recipes or new menu ideas based on the results of the customer satisfaction survey. Café Evansdale is a large dining hall with several different “lines” – the grill, pizza & pasta, salad bar, taste of home, demo bar, desserts, and “quenchers” (drinks).  So, in order to narrow the focus of the survey and make more specific recommendations based on the results of the survey, Kathy Curtin (Assistant Director of WVU Dining) suggested I pick one area of the dining hall to use for the survey.  Since I had worked the grill line for lunch period on Wednesday (apron, baseball hat, & all!), I felt I had the best knowledge and experience in that area and therefore geared my survey towards gauging the students’ satisfaction of the grill line.

On Thursday, September 13th from 10:30am-11:30am I handed out the survey to students that were eating lunch in Café Evansdale.   In the health and medical field you never want to “re-invent the wheel”, so I based my survey heavily on the one I found that Harvard dining has used in the past, though a shortened and modified version.  A copy of the survey I used is shown below:

Meal Satisfaction Survey – The Grill 

Your answers and comments will be used to make recommendations such as menu changes, new recipes, and to improve customer satisfaction.

Excellent Good Fair Poor
Overall Satisfaction of   Food
Taste of Food
Food Temperature
Freshness of Food
Menu Variety
Availability of Food
Visual Appeal of Food
Favorite items:
Items you’d like to see added to the grill:
Additional comments/suggestions:

I was able to introduce myself to students seated in the dining area, tell them what the survey was for, and hand out a copy for them to fill out. Within an hour I had received 51 responses which I then used to write a summary and make recommendations for improving the grill line.  Here are some of the results of the survey:

59% of students scored “overall satisfaction” at good or excellent

82% of students scored “Food Availability” at good or excellent

69% of students scored “Menu Variety” at fair or poor

In general, the survey results showed that students are very happy with the food availability, and generally pleased with food temperature, visual appeal, overall satisfaction, freshness, and taste.  However there was a drastic change with menu variety as most students believed the variety of the foods offered on the grill line is fair or poor.  This opened up for discussion of possible improvements on the comment section, and I was eager to read the students’ written responses.

The top 3 favorite items on the grill line were hamburgers, hot dogs, and turkey burgers. All three of these items are offered every day for lunch and dinner, so in my opinion it is best to continue to keep these as staples on the grill line, and in order to increased menu variety, add in other items on the side instead of as a replacement of hamburgers, hot dogs, or turkey burgers.

When students were asked which items they’d like to see added to the grill, the top five responses were:

  1. Grilled chicken
  2. Steak/Philly cheese steak
  3. Seafood (salmon, lobster, shrimp)
  4. Fried mozzarella sticks
  5. Chicken nuggets/tenders

There were also requests for:

  • Corn dogs
  • Shiskabobs
  • More vegetarian options
  • Filet mignon
  • More home cooked foods
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Mexican food (burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, taco bar)
  • Grilled turkey leg/chicken leg
  • Chicken wings (w/ bones, every Friday like they used to have)
  • Pork BBQ
  • Alligator meat
  • Frog legs
  • Cheese-filled burgers
  • Have a short order cook

(Alligator meat? Frog legs?? I’m definitely not in North Dakota anymore!)

Based on the results of this section of the survey, I would recommend a few changes to be made. Firstly, I would start offering a plain grilled chicken breast on the grill every other day, if not every day.  Many students responded they would like more chicken products, including grilled chicken so they could eat it plain or make their own grilled chicken sandwich.  This is especially great for the segment of students are interested in making healthy choices. It is easy to eat healthy in the dining hall if you stick to HealthyU and the salad bar, but beyond that there isn’t much.  Having grilled chicken breast offered frequently would add to the variety of foods that students who are interested in eating healthy can enjoy.

Secondly, I would try to add in a Philly cheese steak sandwich once a week to the grill line (or Taste of Home line), since many students wanted steak or Philly cheese steak sandwiches.  While it would be nice to have steak, lobster, and filet mignon, it’s also expensive to have those items on a regular or even semi-regular basis, so in order to keep meal plan costs down for the students, I wouldn’t recommend having those more expensive meats unless it was for a theme meal during the semester.

I would also recommend incorporating many of the other student requests into the menu rotation for the grill line, like fried mozzarella sticks, corn dogs, shishkabobs, chicken wings, cheese-filled burgers (and maybe cheese-filled hot dogs?), Mexican food, vegetarian options, and grilled turkey legs. These menu items could each be offered once a week or once every other week depending on how the students respond to them and the cost and availability of each particular item.

The “comments” section included a variety of comments ranging from “I really like the food here! 🙂 ” to “put sauce in pumps” to “Kind of hard to eat healthy,” and everything in between.  Based on the results of the comments section, I can see there is a mix of positive and negative comments, as is to be expected.  The dining hall’s market segment is the student population here at WVU.   But students’ tastes and food preferences can greatly vary based on their background, culture, personal preferences, and health concerns.  It can be difficult to please everyone, but I think with a few minor changes the grill line could better meet the needs of all the students.

Interestingly enough, there were requests for more vegetarian options, having grilled cheese sandwiches, and putting a menu up at the grill- all of which are currently being done. There are garden burgers and black bean burgers offered by request each day, but perhaps this is not being marketed and advertised as well as it could be.  Larger menu signage in a different, more obvious location would be beneficial to students who would like a larger variety of food, more vegetarian options, and students who would like a short-order cook (as the alternative burgers are made when requested).  Additionally, students can order a grilled cheese sandwich at the sandwich deli line, and an employee will make them a fresh grilled cheese sandwich with the bread and cheese of their choice with the Panini maker behind the deli line. Perhaps it would be beneficial to put up a small half-sheet laminated sign that reminds students they can order a fresh grilled cheese sandwich.

I also think that putting sauce in pumps would be a great idea. This type of dispenser would be easier for students to use than reaching under a sneeze guard to grab a ladle of barbecue sauce for their burger.  If there is counter space for dispensers for the hot sauce, A1 sauce, barbecue sauce, ranch, and other dressings, this would create a cleaner serving line, keep the sauces separated (no cross-contamination of one sauce dripping into another sauce), and I believe it would speed up the serving line because it is quicker to pump sauce onto your plate than it is to scoop it onto your plate with a serving spoon.

So in conclusion, my recommendations for the grill line at WVU include:

1. Add plain, grilled chicken breast to grill line at least 3-5 days a week

2. Rotate in Philly cheese steak, fried mozzarella sticks, corn dogs, shishkabobs, chicken wings, cheese-filled burgers, Mexican food, more vegetarian options, and grilled turkey legs once a week or every other week, based on students’ responses (in order to meet student’s need for increased menu variety)

3. Better advertising for daily availability of garden burgers, black bean burgers, salmon burgers, and grilled cheese sandwiches

4. Put grill menu/menu cycle in more prominent place for students to see

5. Store sauces/condiments in pumps rather than in hotel pans with ladles

I think this was a beneficial project and rotation objective. I submitted my recommendations and summary to the appropriate people, and I look forward to seeing what type of follow-ups are made, if any, based on this sample survey.  I also look forward to seeing what areas of the dining hall the other interns survey. I’d like to know how the students at WVU feel about the other lines, like the salad bar line and taste of home line (though I personally believe the salad bar line is near perfect!!).

Categories: Food Service | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Customer Count: Factors & Figures

In any food service organization, correctly projecting customer count each day is important for several reasons. You need to be able to know how much food to order 2 weeks ahead of time, how much of a recipe to make, how many workers you’ll need to schedule for that day, and what the hours of operation are. All of these variables depend on how many customers you expect each day!

At WVU, students have their student ID scanned before they go into Cafe Evansdale (the dining hall located in Towers). This means that days and years of data are stored so that managers can accurately estimate how many students to expect, based on previous years’ data from that same week.  This way the managers can order the correct amount of food, schedule the correct amount of employees, and from time to time adjust the hours of operation as needed.

There are several factors that affect customer count at any dining establishment. The factors that you’ll see in university dining halls include:

Weather! Weather, weather, weather. There are 1800 students that live in Towers. Imagine if there’s a huge snowstorm and everyone is snowed in. You can pretty much guarantee that except for a brave few, most students will choose to stay indoors and eat at Cafe Evansdale instead of traipsing outside in the frozen tundra for some Chik-fil-A.  If it’s a beautiful, sunny day, however, students are more likely to be outside and eat at restaurants, other dining halls, or use the Brew ‘n Gold grab-and-go option and eat outside.  While you can’t always plan for weather, it is still a factor that affects customer count.

Snow day!

Holidays University holidays, such as the recent labor day, have an effect on customer count. When students have labor day off, many students will choose to go home for that 3-day weekend and thus customer counts will be down.  Holidays also include Fall Break (some Universities have a fall break), Election Day, Thanksgiving & Christmas break (some students leave early), Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Good Friday, and Spring Break.

Have a Merry WVU Christmas

Weekends Students go home during the weekends. Not all, but enough to make a difference in customer counts. In addition, many students use the weekend as an opportunity to sleep in (not eat breakfast), go out (dinner & a movie), or take a weekend mini-vacation up to Pittsburgh or D.C.  For these reasons, WVU, like many other academic institutions, offers a brunch and dinner on Saturdays & Sundays rather than a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Game Days There were 1541 students who ate brunch on Saturday, August 25th….1031 students on Saturday, September 1st, and 1357 students who ate brunch on Saturday, September 8th.  Why was September 1st a lower customer count than the other Saturdays? Because there was a 12:00pm WVU-Marshall football game on September 1st!  Many students are out tailgating rather than sitting in the dining hall eating brunch, so if there are game days (or game nights), customer count will be down.

Let’s Go Mountaineers!

Time of Year WVU sees a significant decrease in the amount of meals served towards the end of the year in the spring semester than in the beginning of the fall semester.  Why’s that?  In the spring, students are anxious for summer and for school to get out. They’re going home more often, sleeping in longer (because they realized they don’t necessarily have to go to class to get an A), and going out more (“school’s almost done!”), and are outside enjoying the nice weather.  Customer count drops in the spring because of all these factors.

Here are some interesting Cafe Evansdale customer counts for you, to put it all in perspective:

  • First week of school: 18,708 meals served
  • Second week of school: 16,647 meals served
  • Third week of school: 15,407 meals served
  • Second week of April: 11,838 meals served
  • Third week of April: 11,648 meals served
  • Fourth week of April: 11,877 meals served

As you can tell, in the beginning of the year, the dining hall is serving about 16,920 meals a week, while that number drops to 11,787 at the end of the spring semester. A lot of that figure is due to the fact that students are probably sleeping in– as the dining hall served an average of 543 breakfasts a day in August/September, but an average of 260 breakfasts in April/May. That’s less than half of what we were seeing in the beginning of the year!

  • Average weekday dinner attendance in August/September: 1088
  • Average weekend (Fri & Sat) dinner attendance in August/September: 682
  • Average weekday dinner attendance in April/May: 773
  • Average weekend (Fri & Sat) dinner attendance in April/May: 440

Did you know? Trying to avoid crowds? Trying to join the crowd? Here are some interesting findings:

  • Least attended breakfast: Friday
  • Least attended lunch: Friday
  • Least attended dinner: Saturday
  • Most attended breakfast: Wednesday
  • Most attended lunch: Thursday
  • Most attended dinner: Tuesday
Categories: Food Service | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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