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.
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.
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.
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