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Social media a cornerstone for dining teams in the era of social distancing

Colleges are highlighting familiar faces and favorite recipes to keep students engaged with foodservice even after returning home.
Photograph: Shutterstock

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact operations, colleges are finding new ways to keep students engaged with the foodservice program. A key piece of that, for many schools, has been to shine a spotlight on the dining services staff students may be missing while conducting e-learning at home.

NC State Dining recently shared a message from beloved employee Candy Horton, featuring a video of her and another team member reminding students to adhere to social distancing guidelines and wishing them well. So far, that video has garnered almost 26,000 views on Twitter and upwards of 2,380 on Instagram, the Raleigh, N.C., dining team says.


The team also took to Reddit to provide some virtual encouragement with a video of an employee doing what she is known for on campus: giving out fist bumps.

To help students with their at-home cooking adventures, Michigan Dining has launched the MDining Cookbook, a virtual collection of recipes from its foodservice staff in Ann Arbor, Mich. Using the hashtag #MCookbook, the team has fostered further engagement by polling students to determine which recipe to share next.

And for the Sodexo-run dining operation at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., social media platform TikTok has become a marketing linchpin in recent weeks.

“Gen Z engages with brands differently than millennials,” Marketing Manager Ryan Wheeler said in a statement. “Because the majority of our student population falls in that category, we saw TikTok as a great way to interact with them like never before. It’s also a great way to introduce lighter content that isn’t related to COVID-19.”

The team debuted its TikTok account at the end of March, with a recent video garnering upwards of 293,000 views.

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