Five Questions for: Julaine Kiehn

Julaine Kiehn, Five Questions, University of MissouriCustomer surveys are a vital part of most foodservice operations, but how to create a successful one and then put those suggestions into action can be a little trickier. Julaine Kiehn, director of Campus Dining Services at 30,200-student University of Missouri in Columbia, spoke about the challenges involved with customer surveys.

Many colleges use surveys to gain customer feedback, what do you guys do to differentiate your survey and make sure students participate?

We e-mail surveys directly to students; if they are going to respond, they usually do so within 24 to 48 hours. To encourage participation, we often enter survey respondents in a drawing for a declining balance card with Campus Dining Services.

What are some of the challenges involved in actually crafting the survey?

Each question needs to specifically address what we want to know so the questions must be clearly stated. Every question on a survey needs to have a purpose. Surveys need to stay short so they are respectful of the survey respondent's time investment. Also, sometimes responding to students’ feedback doesn’t work out. During one survey, students told us they wanted à la carte service for breakfast and lunch and all-you-care-to-eat service during dinner at one of our residential dining locations. When the renovated facility opened the following semester, students ended up preferring the all-you-care-to-eat service for all three meals.

What are some examples where you've gotten feedback from the survey and you've been able to translate that feedback into a reality?

Students told us they wanted to be able to spend part of a meal in our residential takeout operations. So we offered an option for students to convert their meals to points. For example students could receive 100 points each week, rather than 10 meals. This way students could then spend parts of meals.

What advice would you give other operators about crafting a student survey?

Always have a purpose for each question. Ensure the question is clear by testing the survey with a small customer group prior to administering the survey and making any necessary refinements. Keep the survey short to encourage participation. It may be helpful to follow up the survey results with focus group discussions to address specifics.

What are some of the items on this year's survey that you are going to look into implementing in the next few months?

We gathered feedback on the current dining plans and suggestions for changes so we are considering offering block dining plan options during fall 2010.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
salad

We’re currently piloting a Salad Bar Happy Hour 
in Cafe 16. Due to Health Department regulations, any self-serve salad bar items must be disposed of after service. The salad bar goes “on sale” for 25 cents an ounce post-lunchtime to help reduce waste as well as offer value to customers.

Menu Development
sauces

Adding an entirely new cuisine to the menu can feel daunting. But what if you could dabble in international flavors simply by introducing a few new condiments? For inspiration, FSD talked to operators who are offering a range of condiments plucked from global regional cuisines.

“Most ethnic cuisines have some sort of sauce or condiment relishes that go with their dishes,” says Roy Sullivan, executive chef with Nutrition & Food Services at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. Condiments offered to diners at UCSF Medical include chimichurri (Argentina), curry (India), tzatziki (...

Ideas and Innovation
turnip juice brine

Give leftover brine new life by adding it to vegetables. In an interview with Food52, Stuart Brioza, chef and owner of State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, says that he adds a splash of leftover brine while sauteeing mushrooms to increase their flavor profile. “We like to ferment turnips at the restaurant, and it’s a great way to use that brine—though dill pickle brine would work just as well,” he says.

Menu Development
side dishes

Operators looking to increase sales of side dishes may want to focus on freshness and value. Here’s what attributes consumers say are important when picking sides.

Fresh - 73% Offered at a fair price - 72% Satisfies a craving - 64% Premium ingredients - 56% Natural ingredients - 49% Signature side - 47% Something familiar - 46% Housemade/made from scratch - 44% Something new/unique - 42% Large portion size - 42% Healthfulness - 40% Family-size - 40%

Source: Technomic’s 2017 Starters, Small Plates and Sides Consumer Trend Report , powered by Ignite

FSD Resources