Dining flexibility increases meal plan sales

Published in FSD Update

Students at Lynn University, in Boca Raton, Fla., are reaping the benefits of their new 24-hour dining access. And because of the new dining hours, they’re enjoying new class schedules, too.

Under the previous foodservice provider, the standard 19 weekly meals were only available during specific breakfast, lunch and dinner hours and within a separate late-night facility. The format forced the university to develop schedules around the dining hours to ensure students had enough time to eat. This, however, left the university with few options for mid-day and evening classes. That all changed when Sodexo came on board during the summer of 2013.

Sodexo also opened up dining hours to allow for 24-hour access—causing a shift not just for the dining program but also for the university. As students can now satisfy food needs at any time of the day, the university is no longer limited when developing class schedules and has begun to offer classes at times previously blocked for eating. Students wishing to eat on the meal plan can now build schedules to their liking, choosing classes during the standard mid-day lunchtime or later in the evening if they prefer.

Before the university tried “not to schedule things during the lunch hour,” explains Brian Bowser, general manager of dining services for Sodexo at Lynn. But with 24-hour access, “students are given the opportunity to eat when they want, they don’t have to have that block of time, and the university is finding that students are inclined to have class later in the day,” a time when commuter students typically attend classes.

The change has been “phenomenal,” Bowser says. “Customer feedback and response has been great and [there’s been an] increase in student satisfaction, meal plans being utilized and meal plan sales.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources