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Feeding Liberty’s success

Joining a new university campus takes some adjusting to and it’s important for students to feel at home from day one.

Satisfying the needs of a diverse student population is challenging

According to an Inside Higher Ed survey of chief financial officers, 92% found that retaining current university students was their most important stream of revenue.

Located in Central Virginia, Liberty University is the largest university in the state with an on-campus student body of more than 14,000 students. Approximately 64% of residential students are from 48 different U.S. states and more than 80 other different countries.

“We were under-delivering and in turn losing sales because students would get frustrated waiting and just leave without purchasing,” Duke Davis, Sodexo General Manager at Liberty.

With such a large, diverse and international population, satisfying the tastes and needs of students was a challenging undertaking. Liberty looked to us for ideas and innovations to improve the students’ dining experience and help their university adventure be a long-lasting one.

Introducing anytime dining and tailored menus

In doing our part to make the dining experience faster and more satisfying, we conducted on-site research to discover that the traditional system of manually scanning student IDs was creating long lines and deterring students from fully exploring their meal options. After beta-testing facial recognition software, which the students felt was intrusive, we installed a card swipe system.

To help Liberty students have more flexibility around mealtimes and reduce waste, we also introduced Anytime Dining, where food services could be accessed in-between dining times. This meant students didn’t need to load up at mealtimes. We also increased the number of served stations where we could control portion sizes and created a waste Awareness Wall by the dish return, inviting students to be more conscious about not bringing plates back filled with wasted food.

The menu at Training Table was designed with athletes in mind using high protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat and sodium, and plenty of choices and flavour.

As Liberty University’s athletic success had grown, we felt it appropriate to specifically address the dietary needs of the athletic community. The menu at Training Table was designed with athletes in mind using high protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat and sodium, and plenty of choices and flavour.

We also developed an offering, Simple Servings, for the growing number of college students with food allergies, celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance.

Maintaining 92% student customer satisfaction

“We were under-delivering and in turn losing sales because students would get frustrated waiting and just leave without purchasing,” explained Duke Davis, Sodexo General Manager at Liberty. Our card swipe system reduced wait times by 40% and significantly improved student customer satisfaction and helped Liberty to maintain a 92% customer satisfaction rate.

By promoting smarter eating habits, we helped Liberty reduce waste by 25% and according to our focus groups, the availability of a gluten-free menu was a surprisingly significant factor for students deciding to attend Liberty. Liberty has increased their dining revenue by 50% since 2014, from $20 million to $30 million annually. Within this they have boosted their voluntary meal plan sales by 133% and secured a 45% meal plan capture rate amongst commuters.

Liberty have boosted their voluntary meal plan sales by 133% and secured a 45% meal plan capture rate amongst commuters.

Nationally, 58% of college admissions officers surveyed by Inside Higher Ed didn’t reach their 2015-2016 enrolment goals. Yet, Liberty University reached residential student capacity in each of its last.

Download the full case study.

February 08, 2019

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