Non-commercial foodservice slow to embrace social media

When used, however, photos are the key to social media engagement, operators say.

College operators are significantly more likely than other market segments to use social media to connect with their customers, according to The Big Picture data. Seventy-five percent use Facebook, and 38% say they employ Twitter. FSD spoke to marketing managers for dining services at two universities to find out about their social media strategies.

University of Missouri, Columbia

“You can really only focus on one social media strategy at a time,” says Michael Wuest, marketing manager for Campus Dining Services. “We decided to focus on increasing student engagement. Some people are focused on grabbing tons of followers or ‘likes,’ but we wanted to develop a good group of customers who would become ambassadors of our brand.”

According to Wuest, the most effective way to engage students is relatively simple: use photos. A daily hashtag promotion, launched this semester, incorporates photos whenever possible. A hashtag is a way to identify a topic on Twitter. For example, the department does a promotion called MyPlate Monday where students are asked via hashtag to submit photos of their plates, which are then posted in a Facebook album.

“People are visual and we get a lot more responses out of people if we share pictures than if we share a text-based update,” Wuest says. “We do Tuesday trivia questions, and they were originally just text-based messages. We added pictures to the posts, and the number of people who responded jumped.”

Michigan State University, East Lansing

Photos are also a big part of the social media strategy for Lindsey Bliss, digital communications manager. Her department uses Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to connect with customers. Recently, Bliss says she sent one of her social media interns to the university’s Halloween dinner to take photos and live-tweet the event. By the end of the night, the photos had already been posted on Facebook by students.

“Definitely make [your social media strategy] immediate, relevant and really interactive,” says Bliss. “I’ve noticed a real trend toward image-based sharing, so we try to use a lot of photos. Anything we post will have either a photo, a link to a YouTube video or a link back to our website, so it offers something besides just text.”

One important note, Bliss says, is to keep the same username for all your different social media platforms so followers can easily find you. On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, MSU students know to look for the EatAtState name.

“Another cool thing we do with Twitter is we post daily specials that students can’t find out about anywhere else,” Bliss says. “We want to create a feeling of exclusivity to give customers a reason to follow us.” 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The Virginia Department of Health said it has traced a “cluster” of hepatitis A cases to frozen Egyptian strawberries used by Virginia units of a smoothie chain.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe voluntarily trashed the strawberries and switched to supplies from a different source immediately after being notified of the connection, the health department said in a statement issued Friday.

The department noted that it had traced earlier outbreaks of hepatitis A to strawberries imported from Egypt. But it warned that supplies may still be in the freezers of other foodservice operations...

Managing Your Business
business man smash computer

Foodservice directors spend a lot of time taking care of other people, whether it’s K-12 students who aren’t always eating enough at home, malnourished patients back for return visits or employees squabbling among themselves. That kind of pressure can weigh heavily—and come home from work. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America finds that 83% of men and 72% of women say stress at work carries over into their personal lives, and 50% call staff management their main culprit for workplace stress.

“Stress is very difficult in our world, and work-life balance is very much a...

Industry News & Opinion

Students at an Arkansas high school may have to take creative measures to get a meal, thanks to a school policy that prevents parents from dropping off lunches left at home.

The Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Ark., last week posted a picture on Facebook of a sign that reads, “Stop. If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment, etc., please turn around and exit the building. Your son will learn to problem-solve in your absence.”

While social media opinions on the school’s rule were mixed, some commenters expressed concern that...

Industry News & Opinion

Novato Unified School District in Novato, Calif., has created a new vegetarian grab-and-go item as part of the district’s Meatless Monday initiative, marinij.com reports .

The Fiesta Rice and Bean Shaker, which is served in disposable cups, contains rice, corn, black beans, taco seasoning, corn tortilla chips and romaine lettuce topped with an optional salsa and ranch dressing. It’s also customizable, as students are able to select which ingredients they’d like to include.

The vegetarian shaker is made using produce from a nearby organic garden. Sofie Garcia, an employee in...

FSD Resources