Northwestern University cooks up a customer-focuesd program

ipad laptop

Chris Studtmann, district executive chef at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., is cooking up a whole new program with the help of consumer analytics and feedback.

Q: How are you getting input?

A: We find that most students like more digital forms of replying, so we have a text and email format. We bring iPads from our marketing team into the dining halls and intercept students with quick five-question surveys. We also do the larger-scale National Association of College and University Food Services surveys.

Q: How are you using that data to make decisions?

A: Our customer service trainer and manager is working with our marketing and human resources departments to take all of this data and compile it into a more readable format. Then managers can review and set a corresponding action to each data point.
It’s so much easier to take a little time to get that data together and start from day one by giving the customer what they want, than to go fishing and have a couple days of everyone not being happy. It’s worth the work.

Q: How has data impacted your program so far?

A: We found that the flavor profiles students like are Italian, Southeast Asian, Indian, Mexican and vegan cuisines. That gave us the idea of what daily brands to rotate into our new My Kitchen station, a customizable self-cook station. It also fuels which recipes we incorporate into our menu cycle and what events to put on our calendar. 

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