students on campus is even more difficult now that many schools give them the opportunity to spend their meal plan dollars at off-campus establishments. Whether this is a good idea or not still remains to be seen.
While the choice and quality of food are of course among the main factors when students make the decision to eat with you, hosting special events can create an atmosphere that will help you stay the students' No. 1 choice.
With budget cuts becoming a major factor and food costs rising, campuses across the country are coming up with new, inventive ways to produce exciting special events.
In this month''s Mind Your Business section, we ask three foodservice directors how they are able to put on events while keeping costs to a minimum. They offer different ways to do this.
Our Around the Campus section this month features a number of schools that put on events that students loved —— with little or no extra costs involved.
DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa., used the birthday of author Dr. Seuss to host an event that was a hit with students. The event was coordinated by interns — who take away nothing from the bottom line — who created all of the decorations and worked with the campus chef to create a themed menu that the students loved.
At Western Illinois University in Macomb, students picked their favorite dishes of those already served on campus in a Salute to the Oscars and held a special dinner with those items. The only real cost of the events was the red plastic sheeting used as the red carpet when students walked into the dining area.
The University of Buffalo in New York actually teams up with its off-campus competitors to host “Guest Restaurant Nights.” The students get a taste of some famous regional restaurants, while the businesses get exposure to the student body.
Another great way to keep costs to a minimum is to partner with manufacturers, suppliers, distributors or commodity associations. These groups want to get their products in front of your students and have a lot of great ways to do so —— whether by hosting samplings or sponsoring contests. Some have famous costumed characters who can show up on campus, and students are always excited to see and take pictures with them. Others have corporate chefs who can visit campus and host special culinary events.
Of course, only you and your staff will know what kinds of events will work on your campus, but as these events illustrate, it isn't necessary to spend a lot of money to get the desired effect. A little creativity can create a lot of excitement.