The Dining Hall is a primary food source on Shepherd University’s campus. It is one of three locations, and due to it’s ability to stay open seven days a week as well as through inclement weather, the Dining Hall needs to increase its use in order to continue the flow of revenue. Currently the Dining Hall is looking to increase student traffic, specifically commuters, as they make up most of the student body.
I have three goals for Dining Hall in this campaign; to increase commuter awareness of the Dining Hall, increase student use of the Dining Hall, and increase social media activity.
In order to complete these goals, I’ve created three objectives:
Increase Commuter use by September 1, 2017
Increase Faculty use by September 1, 2017
Increase social media use by August 20, 2017
Throughout this campaign I will supply the Dining Hall with the proper strategies and tactics in order to achieve the goals laid out above. You will find in this campaign, that you will have mock social media pages and posts in order to set those implementing these strategies on the right track as well as, preparing a job description for an intern to work on the following campaign plan. By increasing social media and marketing there is sure to be positive changes coming to the Dining Hall. Again you will find everything you need within this campaign plan.
Shepherd University is a small public liberal arts university. The core values at Shepherd University are as follows: learning, engagement, integrity, accessibility, and community. Shepherd offers more than 79 undergraduate programs and is a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. Shepherd University is located in Shepherdstown and its campus is located on 323-acres. The main focus within this organization is the dining hall, the main food source on campus for Shepherd University students. The dining hall is located on the East side of campus and is housed in between three dorms, Turner Hall, Kenamond Hall and Gardiner Hall. A short walk from the main campus the Dining hall is open everyday including weekends, making it the only food option for residents on weekends.
“Shepherd University Dining Services is a dynamic service-oriented team committed to excellence in collegiate foodservice. We are dedicated to the enrichment of campus life through the food and service we provide the University. In all we do, we are “Dedicated to the Liberal Art of Eating”.”
“Customers are our reason for being.”
“People are the source of our strength.”
“We shall operate with integrity in all we do.”
These are the overall goals that dining services has for their food establishments. The goal for the campaign itself, is to increase the revenue within the next year and increase traffic.
There a 12 staff members in dining services that are upper level, such as, supervisors and directors. Dining services is the overall organization that runs all meal plans and services on campus. This includes Dining Hall, Rams Den and the Wellness Center Cafe. Before Rams Den and Wellness Center Cafe were established, Dining Hall was the only location for students to get food. At this time, student retention was up and due to the high capacity of students needing food, the Rams Den and Wellness Center Cafe were required to feed all of these students. Now student retention has dropped significantly.
The Issue as Defined by Client
The Dining Hall is the center of three residence halls, of which typically house freshman. According to the Shepherd University Profile , last updated 2014-2015, only 29% of students live on campus. If these numbers didn’t fluctuate too much, this means that 71% of students are commuters. Unfortunately, due to there being such a high number of commuter students, the dining halls do not have the same high numbers of people as they once did. With that being said, the dining hall no longer receives student traffic due to convenience. Students do not want to walk down the hill to dining hall when eating in town is closer, or when Rams Den and Bistro are located in the center of the buildings that students typically reside. This is the same with the West side of campus. Students that typically reside on that side and have their classes over there will get their food primarily from the Wellness Center Cafe, as it is the most convenient option.
Communication Audit of Current Communication Efforts
In terms of current communication efforts, dining services has social media accounts but has yet to use them. As far as public relations goes their main efforts reside within their website, found on Shepherd University’s main page. There is also the dining services website which offers a variety of information such as: locations, catering, meal plans, meals to go, the gift shop, as well as, contact information. Facebook and Rampulse are the only other forms of media that they have employed. The problem is the lack of use of these sites. They can be found on Facebook under the name Shepherd University Dining Hall, as well as Rampulse, listed under Dining Services.
Effectiveness of Past Communication:
The past communication has not been effective as there is nothing to measure. The Facebook page has no posts on it, except for the updated profile picture that was done October of 2016. Rampulse also contains no information. Without an effective social media strategy students have nothing to connect with. When asking those who were interviewed if they would be interested in a dining hall snapchat, they said yes and asked if they had a website. When I replied with, you can find the page for dining hall if you look on the Shepherd website, it was clear how complex it was to find out any information, and that a simpler platform specifically oriented to dining hall would be preferred.
Demographic/ Psychographic Characteristics of Each Key Public:
The public to reach are the commuter students on campus. Granted we want to increase student traffic in the Dining Hall, most students who live on campus must eat at the Dining Hall on weekends as it is the only food option open. This is more specifically Saturday evenings and Sunday’s. According to Shepherd University’s student demographic data for 2016, 60.7% of students are in-state while 39.3% are out of state, 59.3% are female while 40.7% are male. The latest census (2017) states that there are 2,475 full-time students and 356 part-time students attending Shepherd University.
Of these students, 29% live on campus, while 71% are commuters. Although these specific percentages are from data collected from the year 2014-2015, there is speculation that this number has not fluctuated greatly.
Relationship with Organization:
The relationship between Dining Hall and the students attending Shepherd University has a slightly negative vibe. Dining Services is involved in campus activities and the catering services are often used for on-campus events, such as greek life’s philanthropy events, any athletic events, as well as the commuter engagement outreach programs. As stated prior, the Dining Hall is the only location for food opened on the weekends (primarily Sundays since the Wellness cafe has limited hours on Saturday).
The relationship, due to lack of social media presence, is limited. Traditional students live in the a very high tech society and are consistently on their phones and are hardly detached from it, therefore the best way to build a relationship with them is to appear on something they look at everyday.According to those interviewed, a social media presence is desirable and beyond the idea of snapchat, they are also interested in the possible use of Instagram. By providing this connection, the relationship between the two parties will be strengthened.
Communication characteristics need to be developed. As of right now the Dining Hall is relying on two platforms in which they have not effectively been using. With that being said by using different platforms and increasing the frequency of communication, the connection between Dining Services and the student body will experience a positive change. If the strategy for an internship opportunity to develop, this would also increase the connection between these two parties. Students and Dining Services have a symbiotic relationship.
There are many opinions that students hold regarding the Dining Hall. In order to increase student traffic there needs to be a change of opinion in order to keep students eating on campus. A lot of students have expressed their opinions that they feel that the Dining Hall has “given them food poisoning,” or that the “options at Dining Hall are not really healthy.” Both of these opinions can more than likely be relieved by the use of a snapchat or Instagram account. I believe that if students knew the food the Dining Hall was preparing for the day and saw some of the behind the scenes food prep this would change these predisposed opinions. Another comment that was recently stated by a Sophomore here at Shepherd was “ the vegetarian buffet trays are sometimes interchangeable with those that contain meat, making this less than satisfactory for vegetarians and all together making it impossible for them to consume. Another student, a Junior at Shepherd stated that the Dining Hall also needs more Gluten free options, as the small cooler does not provide enough and more often than not the date is past edible.
Benefits the Organization Stands to Offer the Audience:
The benefits the Dining Hall stands to offer the students is self explanatory in terms of offering food. What students don’t understand is the deal that they are getting from purchasing their food from the Dining Hall. Students are paying one price for an all you can eat buffet, where they can go back and get seconds, thirds etc. They also have a variety of options to choose from. There are various kinds of cereal, hot buffets, omelet stations, pizza stations, salad bars, vegetarian options and gluten free options, and more. The price is even lower for students, and with a meal plan have the ability to make a one time payment to last throughout the year, so students can eat with just the swipe of their card.
The Rams Den / Bistro is a competitor located on Shepherds campus. It is a part of dining services, but with its location and menu it is a clear competitor as it is chosen over the dining hall. The Rams Den / Bistro are located on the East side of campus, connected to the Student Center and located across from the Library. Rams Den and Bistro although located in the same building offer different food options.
The Rams Den tends to be the location for your typical American cuisine such as the “Grand Slam Breakfast Platter, breakfast sandwiches, for lunch and dinner we offer our signature burgers, flatbread pizzas, wings, and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches.” The Rams Den also offers Sushi made fresh each morning. The Bistro contains the healthier side of American Cuisine. The Bistro, although in a more secluded area of the student center offers “Bagels, homemade muffins, cookies, made to order paninis, salads, sandwiches and convenient grab-n-go items” as well as “an array of juices, sodas, bottled beverages, coffee and tea”. Besides offering breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, the Rams Den has ample seating, as well as, various fundraising tables where many clubs and organizations sell food. There are also areas for leisure activities, featuring ping pong tables, a bowling alley, and pool tables. As the menu is a static one, the Bistro is able to supply students with the nutritional information of the various menu items.
As the location of the establishment is also on Shepherd University’s campus, the target audience remains the same.This also includes community and faculty members. The Rams Den is an area more open to the public as parts of the student center are rented out for outside events such as birthday parties.
The Rams Den / Bistro allows for a convenient place for students and faculty, as well as community members to get a quick bite to eat. Students can branch out and experience fundraisers and learn about different clubs and organizations while at Rams Den, and they have many opportunities to see flyers for the many events the go on, on campus. Not to mention that this is the location of the SGA and Program Board, so many events occur in the Rams Den and this draws in much of the target audience. Some of these events are Trivia Night, Program Board events such as Waffle Day and many more. This location is guaranteed to have students in attendance during the week.
Audit of Competitors Communication
The Student Center is a highly advertised location on Shepherd’s campus. Students are likely to be in the Student Center due to all of the events and activities that are promoted and that occur within this building. The SGA is housed in the Student Center and most of the events scheduled by the Program Board occur in the Rams Den. This means that any events that are held attract the students and therefore they spend most of their time in the Rams Den or Bistro prompting them to eat their meals there.
Most of the advertisements for the Student Center are for events occurring there, such as donuts provided by Program Board or raffles, as well as trivia, are just some examples. On the web there is a site for the Student Center with a link that takes you to Dining Services, which then allows the user to navigate to the Rams Den / Bistro menu. Besides the use of the Dining Services website, Ram Pulse is the website that students can use in order to find out about events coming up at various locations on campus.
Ram Pulse has a Student Center section that discusses what the student center has to offer but is limited in its information. Program Board, which hosts many events in the student center turns to social media to advertise, such as Instagram (shepherdpb), Facebook, Twitter (@ShepherdPB) and Snapchat. Program Board posts to their social media accounts about events coming up about once a week.
The Wellness Center Cafe is located within the Shepherd University Wellness Center, located on the West side of campus. The Cafe is only open on weekdays and on Saturday’s but for a limited number of hours. The Cafe offers a smaller variety of foods but can serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The options offered at the Wellness Center Cafe are promoted to be healthy and fresh. As the menu is static at this dining location, the nutrition is provided through both the menu displayed in the cafe, but the information can also be found via myfitnesspal. Besides the nutrition information, the cafe allows students to order smoothies and include protein powder in their order. Along with the inclusion of protein powder, customers can also buy Muscle Milk and Naked Juices. Both of these beverages definitely drawn on association with a healthy diet.
The target audience, although similar to those for both Rams Den, Bistro and Dining Hall, has a slight difference, which comes with its location. Shepherd University itself is very active in the community and is an institution that welcomes the community to be active on campus. The Wellness Center is open to anyone as it is a gym that requires a gym membership. The cafe, much like other gyms, is open for its members.
The Wellness Cafe is extremely convenient for those who are working out at the gym and need to fuel their bodies after a long workout. This is also a great location to get some of the healthier options on campus. They provide the opportunity for students to build their own smoothies and sandwiches, and have a wide variety of coffee selections including frozen coffee. Placing healthy food options in the gym encourages students to live a healthy lifestyle and this allows them to do so.
Audit of Competitor’s Communication
Just as our client, social media for the wellness cafe is non-existent. The only information is located on the dining services website and this includes a brief statement of what the Cafe has to offer, as well as their menu and whether it is open or closed. The brief statement says, “Need a light snack after a good workout? Try the Wellness Café, located in our very own Wellness Center. Featuring breakfast through dinner, the Café has a nutritious snack for all. Get up and grab yourself a boost today!”
Although the website doesn’t offer a lot in terms of communicating with the audience, the Cafe is located in an area with a high amount of traffic. The Cafe has the opportunity to participate in events such as being open for basketball games (concessions), as well as high school swim meets.
There isn’t much to offer in terms of social media presence. The Cafe is not publicized at all. Its “advertising” is its convenience and location in such a high traffic area. Any info that you want on the Cafe can be found on the dining services website. The Wellness Center itself doesn’t contain any information on their website regarding the Cafe. The Wellness Center has a optimal social media presence but does not advertise for the Cafe.
Situation/Problem the Campaign Will Address
The current problem that this campaign will address is the lack of students eating at the Dining Hall. The reason this is a problem, is the lack of food consumption and revenue coming into the Dining Hall. The Dining Hall is losing money due to students not eating and purchasing food on campus. Most students are unaware of the food options offered at the Dining Hall and the money they can save by eating on campus. The hope is by increasing student traffic through the following strategies and tactics, revenue will increase. By increasing the revenue coming in, more nutritional efforts could be established as well as any other renovations or changes students would like to see throughout on campus dining.
Internal: Strengths, Weaknesses
In terms of the strengths that the Dining hall has, these can be defined by the buffet style dining, and the fact that this is the only establishment that is opened all weekend long. The buffet allows for multiple options for students to choose from depending on what they may be in the mood for at the time. The prices are reasonable and paying once for all you can eat is certainly a plus for a student that is on a budget. Being the only establishment guaranteed to be open all weekend long, as well as the only establishment opened when snowed in, ensures that students are spending their money on this on campus food location rather than venturing off campus.
The weakness within the Dining Hall include: inconvenience, lack of social media presence, commuter to resident ratio and the number of commuters that do not have a meal plan. The inconvenience factor comes with not only the parking problems that students have on campus, but also the student retention issues Shepherd is currently experiencing. With the number of students being at its all time low, the residence halls surrounding the Dining Hall are not filled as they have been in the past. Most of the student traffic going to the Dining Hall to eat were the students living in those halls, as they were the most convenient for those students and with the number of students at a low, this means that the Dining Hall is no longer receiving the business it had in the past.
The commuter to resident ratio plays a role in the lack of students coming to eat their meals at the Dining Hall. Commuters typically park away from the Dining Hall but close to Rams Den and the Wellness Cafe, because of the available parking. This makes all locations other than the Dining Hall ideal, due to convenience. I have also found that those that are commuters on campus do not have a meal plan. By not having a meal plan, commuters feel that it is not worth it to make that trek down the hill to the dining hall when they believe it to be easier to pay with cash at either the Rams Den or Wellness Cafe, of completely take their money off campus to one of the restaurants in town.
Finally the lack of social media presence does not help the Dining Hall to attract students, be that commuters or residents. By increasing their presence on social media, they may be able to develop a following a student interest as to what is happening down at the Dining Hall and the foods they have to offer.
External: Opportunities, Threats
The opportunity for students to connect with the Dining Hall through social media could really help increase student traffic to that establishment. Another opportunity that could be happening in the near future according to an SGA rep, is the removal of Sara Cree and the development of another parking lot. Whether the parking will be for students or not is unknown but if so could help encourage students eating at the Dining Hall, due to its increase in convenience. Although by having parking at this location also creates the possibility for students to continue eating at the Rams Den as it is equal distance.
Social media is a huge opportunity for the Dining Hall and Dining Services in general. Upon interviewing students, all commuters, were interested in more social media surrounding the Dining Hall, as they would be more likely to make the trek down the hill if they knew what their options would be and of course an increase in parking would help as well. Some steps have been taken to get commuters involved through the implementation of the commuter engagement outreach program, which has been effective according to Aida Blanco, Director of Dining Services.
A huge threat to the Dining Hall will be the opening of a new food establishment that will be present within the new residence hall to be built Fall of 2017. This will be new and take away from the Dining Hall and adds another convenient location for the students that live on the West Side of Campus. The only plus from adding yet another establishment is the possibility that students will at least be eating on campus rather than taking their money to establishments not affiliated with Shepherd University.
After developing the SWOT analysis, I have come to the conclusion the best means of developing a strategy would be to focus in and implement a weakness-threats strategy. By going this route the goal is to lessen the threats and build on those weaknesses so that they become strengths. In order to change the course of student retention, student traffic and consumption we must focus on those weakness.
Goals and Objectives
Goals for this Campaign are as follows:
Increase Commuter Awareness of the Dining Hall
Increase Student use of the Dining Hall
Increase Social Media activity
Objectives ( If implemented Fall 2017)
Increase Commuter use by September 1, 2017
Increase Faculty use by September 1, 2017
Increase social media use August 20, 2017
Title: Get it all for one price.
Theme: All you can eat right down the hill.
Public: The Commuter
One payment, endless food.
College students often use the phrase, “I am a poor college student.” With that being said it’s important for them to get the most from their dollar. By paying once when entering the buffet style dining hall, students can eat as much as they want, this means seconds, thirds, fourths, etc.
Breakfast anytime of the day.
The Dining Hall offers many more options for meals, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. The Dining Hall offers a full salad bar, gluten free options, yogurt bar, a station to make waffles, a variety of cereals and a full buffet that changes everyday.
Meals to go at any time.
Faculty have to eat too and the Dining Hall just put in new parking spots specifically for picking up a quick meal and then driving to your next location. Faculty may have limited time between classes and by providing this “one stop shop” system they can grab a meal and get to their next class with time to spare.
Endless space for meetings.
The Dining Hall has a lower level dining room that contains various white boards for use as well as various outlets to plug in computers and other electronics. The location is separated from the rest of the dining space, therefore it will be much quieter than other spaces but you will still have access to food during any meetings.
Channels and Opinion Leaders
The channels I will use in order to create a social media presence and to increase student use will be Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. I believe that these three social media platforms will get receive the most traffic especially for the subject matter. In order to make sure our social media is effective, Dining Hall will collaborate with a student intern who is a Strategic Communication major.
In terms of opinion leaders we have a few options. These include: SGA, Program Board and the Greek community.
SGA has a huge connection with Student Affairs as Tom Segar plays a large role in both and is also the developer of the Commuter Engagement Outreach program. By using SGA to sponsor events and Tom Segar to spread the information students will be more likely to hear the message at hand. SGA meetings also contain a member from each organization and club on campus, therefore the word is sure to get out through these leaders attending these meetings.
Program Board is a large and influential group on campus. They plan most of the events that students look forward to attending and those that are involved in this group have their own organizations that they are also a part of. By having Program Board sponsor the events in the Dining Hall or to have them share the social media or advertise, this will also help to reach a large portion of the student body. Already the Program Board does Midnight Breakfast, hosted at Dining Hall and always has a huge turnout.
The final opinion leaders are those included in the Greek Life community. The Greek community is big on this campus and if most of the Greek community decided to switch to the Dining Hall or hosting events there, more students would probably follow in suit. They have a larger impact than they believe and by even including the community in their philanthropic events could draw more people besides students to dine on campus.
Strategies and Tactics
Objective 1: Increase Commuter use by September 1, 2017
Strategy: Draw interest through social media and meal plan deals.
Continue Commuter Engagement Outreach program
At orientation express the benefits of using a meal plan
Advertise for the social media accounts so students can see what is offered
Objective 2: Increase Faculty use by September 1, 2017
Strategy: Offer meal deals and advertise meeting space
Send emails to faculty about menus for that week
Advertise meeting space in the lower level of Dining Hall
Host faculty appreciation events
Objective 3: Increase social media use August 20, 2017
Strategy: Develop a bigger presence on social media.
Create content for Facebook page
Create a snapchat that will show how the food is made and what to expect for the day
Instagram to showcase the menus
Advertise this through Student Affairs and SGA
At orientation, much like Rave Alert, advertise to follow these accounts
Develop an internship for the Dining Hall, all student to run the social media.
Objective 1: Increase Commuter use by September 1, 2017
The effectiveness of this objective will be shown through the increase of revenue, primarily from cash or credit card due to lack of meal plans among commuter students.
Objective 2: Increase Faculty use by September 1, 2017
The effectiveness of this objective will be shown through the increased faculty use of the downstairs space which can be rented out and used, as well as the increase of faculty presence throughout the week at the Dining Hall.
Objective 3: Increase social media use by August 20, 2017
The effectiveness of this objective will be seen through increased comments, likes, follows and views on the various social media platforms.
Blanco, Aida. (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2017 from Rampulse: https://shepherd.collegiatelink.net/organization/dining/news
n.a. (2017). Retrieved March 4, 2017 from Shepherd University Dining Services:http://shepherddining.com/locations/
Program Board. (2017). Retrieved March 4, 2017 from @ShepherdPB Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShepherdPB
Program Board (2017). Retrieved March 4, 2017 from @shepherdpb Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/shepherdpb/
n.a. (2017). Retrieved March 4, 2017 from Niche Inc.:https://www.niche.com/colleges/shepherd-university/campus-life/
Owens, Valerie. (2015). Retrieved March 4, 2017 from:http://www.shepherd.edu/news/warm-welcome-offered-to-commuter-students/
n.a. (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2017 from: http://www.shepherd.edu/studentcenter/
n.a. (Spring 2017). FTE and Headcount by Degree. Retrieved from:http://www.shepherd.edu/wordpress-1/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Spring-2017-profile.pdf
N.a. (2016). Shepherd University Student Demographic Data. Retrieved from:http://www.shepherd.edu/wordpress-1/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/IR_FAQ_demographics_2016.pdf
SU Institutional Research Office, WV HEPC, IPEDS. (2014-2015). Facts and Figures. Pg.7 Retrieved from:http://www.shepherd.edu/wordpress-1/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/university-profile.pdf