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Babson College (Mass.) Dining provider: Sodexo

University Business, Oct 2009

Every six months, Babson dining staff go through a training that teachers them how to "wow" their guests.

Babson College (Mass.)

Total full-time enrollment: 1,851

Institution type: Four-year private

Total number of campus dining facilities (includes any facility serving food; please explain): 4 - Reynolds Cafe (grill, hot line, deli, coffee/smoothie bar), Pandini’s (pizza, deli, salad bar), Jazzman’s Cafe (hot/cold beverages), Trim Dining Hall (main dining facility)

Number of full-service dining facilities (serving three meals a day): 1

Square footage of each main dining facility: 10,352

Location(s) of full-service dining facility on campus: Reynolds Cafe in Reynolds Campus Center; Pandini’s in Olin Hall, Jazzman’s in Horn Library, Trim Dining Hall, Roger’s Pub in Park Manor Central, Woody’s Coffee Bar in Reynolds Campus Center

Name of any dining services provider/s: Sodexo

The groundbreaking ceremony took place October 2, 1963 and Trim Dining Hall opened in September 1964. It was named for the recently deceased President Gordon Trim who had been instrumental in getting the new dining hall project off the drawing board. The architect was Harry Gulesian and the general contractor was William H. Porter. It was constructed at a cost of $500,000 and additional function space was built in 1976. The dining hall went under two renovations - one in 1994 and the other in 2004. In 1994, another $1.2 million dollars was invested into the dining hall. In 2004, $2.1 million was invested to incorporate display, cook to order dining options. These renovations included updating the space to be brighter, more customer-friendly, more comfortable and more modern - more windows were added, central air conditioning was upgraded and flat-screen TVs were installed both for ease of ordering and for entertainment.

The dining hall continuously adapts to the ever changing diverse Babson population, currently serving a student body that is 20% international and hails from 64 countries and 44 states. Our menus incorporate ethnic cuisine at several of our restaurants including vegan and global options. We added a self service spice and condiment area to allow our guest to “spice up” their own food. In 2000, we were the first college to offer a “Home Sweet Home” week soliciting parents to enter their student’s favorite recipes. Recipes selected were served to the entire Babson Community and has become an annual event. Different dining and seating zones give students the option of seating together in large groups or having the privacy needed to work on projects. Takeout is offered for the on-the-go student. As our small, close-knit campus focuses strongly on community-building, our student participation in theme-meal planning and execution is a key factor in not only the success of our program, but in improving the student experience.

The dining area is designed to give our guests the option to sit in groups or dine individually. Our dining hall serving stations were designed to allow the diner to view their meal being prepared by our chefs. Our menus are created to enhance the balance of entrees offered at each dining platform and are now available to be viewed through many of our flat screens or via our touch-screen ordering system. Flexibility is always the theme. Consider the flexibility needed when a recent norovirus outbreak hit our small, suburban campus. While the dining areas were not the initial cause of the virus outbreak, meals were provided as bagged lunches and dinners in lieu of the typical dining hall services to help limit the spread of the virus through student to student contact. Bagged meals were passed out in the retail caf? areas while the campus’ facilities staff aggressively cleaned the entire campus. Ginger ale and crackers were provided throughout the residence hall lounges and resident assistant rooms for those who were not feeling well. This spontaneous dining experience was designed for one of the most unique and highest safety levels a college campus could encounter.

Resource sustainability is a critically important initiative for both Babson College and Sodexo. Reducing, reusing, and recycling in our resident dining facility, retail operations and catering has been a practice for 20 years. We recycle all boxes, shipping containers, cans and bottles from our kitchen units. In the seating area, our facilities management handles recycling by using recycling bins. Our fry oil is used to make bio-diesel fuel for lawnmowers and one truck on campus. Our kitchens practice just-in-time cooking methods to reduce food waste. Reusable mugs and takeout containers are offered across campus. All chemicals used are green seal certified to help reduce energy and use safe chemicals for the environment. Our vendor partners offer a variety of sustainable products from hormone free dairy products to locally grown produce. Our featured coffees on campus are from fair trade, bird-friendly, and are rain forest alliance. Our recent trayless program saved 4299 lbs. of food in one week alone from 13.2 to 2.13 waste per day per person. In partnership with our student group focused on environmental sustainability, the Green Tower, the initiative was so successful that we are exploring the option to incorporate it full-time.

Our ever-changing menu is driven by student satisfaction and input. We gather student feedback through comment cards, Synovate surveys, the student dining advisory board, the student government association, management interaction with students and working with the college nutritionist. Participation in the dining advisory board is open to all students and is chaired by the President of Babson’s Student Government Association. This partnership with the dining advisory board was instrumental in creating a brand new take-out option in resident dining this year that was focused on sustainability and decreasing waste. Responses from Synovate surveys are created into an action plan with the purpose of increasing dining satisfaction across campus. Responses from customer comment cards occur within 24 hours of receiving the comment. We work very closely with the college nutritionist to provide for the nutritional needs of our students, especially student-athletes. As mentioned earlier, our student-led and student-run themed programming nights are always very popular among our customers.

Circle of Customer Excellence is a dynamic program that Babson Dining Services has embraced by its frontline employees and management. It is designed to train our front line employees in suggestive selling and enhanced customer satisfaction. Every 6 months our employees are put through a training that teaches them how to great and “wow” the guest, make recommendations, treat them w/respect and have order accuracy. The #1 driver of customer loyalty in restaurants is the taste of food; the #2 driver of customer loyalty is staff courtesy! We know students need to eat but the experience matters too; our service determines if they want to eat with us. Before each meal, we have a pre-service meeting with our staff to energize and make it aware of the day’s offerings to better help our guest w/their choices. Our personal action stations use guest names for ordering; this has allowed our staff to know all guests’ names. Each new hire is put through a personalized circle of customer excellence to embrace our culture from orientation. We continuously meet and work closely w/campus staff and administration to ensure their needs are met on ongoing basis as we continue to positively impact the student experience.

In conjunction with Undergraduate Admission, we have created a guide to dining services designed especially for first-year and prospective students. Undergraduate Admission also has campus tours that includes Trim Dining Hall and all of our other dining facilities. Our operations manager has a monthly meeting with the Undergraduate Admission team to discuss new offerings that tour guides could highlight while conducting the campus tours. Among other things, our web site has meal plan information, nutritional information, dining locations, menus, hours of operations, special programs and offerings and contact information for prospective students to use. We have also recently created a virtual tour of the Reynolds Campus Center that conveys the experience of Woody’s and Reynolds Caf? to prospective audiences. The tour can be found at This type of virtual tour will be expanded to include all of campus and the other dining facilities later this year.

Great Grill and Pizza Your Way are just two examples of innovative ways to eliminate food waste and increase customer satisfaction. Both of these restaurants enhance customer satisfaction by giving students a retail experience in a resident dining setting. Educating students to the nutritional benefits of low cost items such as grains, rice and legumes has decreased operating cost and customer satisfaction. We also feature low cost\high satisfaction Taste Changer featuring popular food bars such as nacho, potato, hot dog and burger. We manage day to day production based on year over year historical data such as 15 minute traffic counts.


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