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

Menu Development
muse school produce

Kayla Webb, executive chef at Muse School, has transitioned the private K-12 day school in Calabasas, Calif., to an entirely vegan menu over a three-year period. Webb talks about her menuing, and how the school’s kitchen earned the title of “greenest restaurant in the world” from the Green Restaurant Association.

Q: How did you help parents get used to the idea of an all plant-based diet?

A: The first year, we didn’t announce it. We were just serving one plant-based meal a week, so it wasn’t that drastic. We do monthly Muse Talks where we invite different speakers to our school to...

Ideas and Innovation
lettuce dirt

Savor at McCormick Place developed the Green Thumb brand for menu items and products featuring its rooftop bounty; the latest is a pale ale made with the first crop of hops grown on the roof. Promoting that branding and the convention center’s green certification has brought in business from groups with a sustainability focus.

Ideas and Innovation
business pamphlet fair show

As we struggle to recruit and retain millennials, we had our current millennial employees invite friends who don’t work for our organization to a Q&A session where we find out why our organization is or isn’t appealing to them, and what they are looking for in an employer. I recommend doing this off-site in a casual environment so you can get honest and open feedback that could be useful for better marketing.

Menu Development
pho bowl

Achieving authenticity can be tricky. Late last year, Oberlin College landed in the news when students protested the way dining services at the Ohio school was botching ethnic food, serving up inauthentic versions of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. It’s a challenge other operators are confronting, too, often tapping staff and patrons for inspiration.

At 260-bed Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite, Executive Chef Bradley Czajka, himself of Polish-Ukrainian descent, started Global Stations as a way to recognize the diversity of cultures at the hospital. “We have such an...

FSD Resources