Dining during the evening hours is a major driver of meal purchases at the college level. Longer hours are the second-biggest motivator behind on-campus food purchases, with 32% of students saying that extended hours would cause them to purchase more meals, according to Technomic’s 2017 College and University Trend Report, powered by Ignite. Late evening meals can also be seen at hospitals, where night shifts keep hospital workers visiting the cafeteria long past dinner hours.
1. Minimizing the space
When Kutztown University switched to 24-hour dining at its South Dining Hall in August, staff knew that the first step was to downsize the space open during the evening. Starting at 8 p.m., the two-floor dining hall in Kutztown, Pa., is reduced to the main floor, with one section of doors accessible.
“We have our dining staff stationed at that door, and the only way you can go in is if you swipe your ID,” says Kent Dahlquist, director of housing and dining services.
As an added precaution, Dahlquist says the exit doors are outfitted with security gates. If an unwelcome intruder were to enter the building, the security gates would prevent them from going any further.
2. Investing in technology
This past year, University of Georgia in Athens switched from card swipes to eye scanners to access all campus buildings, including Snelling Dining Commons—which is open around the clock.
Bryan Varin, executive director of housing and dining services, says that implementing the eye scanners as well as installing an “extensive network of security cameras” has been helpful in keeping University of Georgia’s buildings secure. As an added precaution, guests purchasing food at the dining commons are required to present their school ID to the cashier between midnight and 7 a.m.
Varin also recommends operators add additional security personnel during the evening hours. “Always have at least two managers on duty for late and overnight shifts,” Varin says.
3. Forming connections
Hiring more people isn’t just about having additional bodies on the premesis. Operators say focusing on developing connections with those security personnel—and guests—is important.
“Engage your security teams early and build relationships with both them and your local law enforcement agency,” says Shawn Chuipek, corporate director of public safety and security at NorthShore University HealthSystem, headquartered in Evanston, Ill. “Also, empowering team members to report suspicious behavior is helpful. The health and safety of everyone is priority No. 1.”
Dahlquist says that at Kutztown, late-night cafe employees are encouraged to get to know guests. “It’s just trying to help the students understand that this environment that we created is there for them, and that the staff are there to assist them,” he says.