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Lehigh University (Pa.) Dining provider: Sodexo

University Business, Oct 2009

Lehigh University (Pa.)

Vibrant colors, lighting, and a variety of seating add to the Lehigh deining atmosphere.

Total full-time enrollment: 4,876

Institution type: Four-year private

Total number of campus dining facilities (includes any facility serving food; please explain): 3 student restaurants; 2 faculty restaurants; 7 retail operations; 4 concessions

Number of full-service dining facilities (serving three meals a day): 3

Square footage of each main dining facility: Rathbone - 8,400; Cort Lower U.C. - 5,000; Brodhead - 4,000

Location(s) of full-service dining facility on campus: Rathbone is on east end of campus; Cort Lower U.C. is in the central part of campus; Brodhead is located on the north end of campus.

Name of any dining services provider/s: Sodexo. Services include: all student, faculty, staff dining; retail facilities; concessions; and catering.

Rathbone student restaurant was built in 1971 and underwent a major renovation which occurred in November 2005. The cost of this renovation was an estimated $1.5 million. It was updated from a straight line “cafeteria” to a restaurant environment. The finished project included an innovative seating design, improved customer flow, and restaurant style culinary concepts with real time production, food preparation and plate up functioning independently from the central kitchen.

The revitalization of Rathbone is a direct advancement on the changing trends in campus dining at Lehigh University and across the country. A dining program was developed that combines exceptional food and atmosphere to create the quintessential dining experience. The student restaurant became more flexible with improved customer flow, circulation, and seating options including high top bar seating, booths, large tables for groups of 8 or more and smaller tables with seating for two. Today’s dining trends strongly point toward dining environments that create authentic restaurant experiences. We therefore have created in Rathbone fresh, cooked to order meals that feature distinct and complete menu choices. Our restaurant style concepts are experience driven with everything from prep, production, display cooking, and plating becoming independent and autonomous to a central kitchen. The benefit to our student customer is the perceived and real value of freshness, quality, variety, and personalized service. Rathbone’s environment appears less institutional as a result of lighting, carpeting and a vibrant color palate. In addition, the windows in Rathbone provide panoramic views of the Lehigh Valley. The Rathbone student restaurant now is more than just a place to eat a meal between classes.

The design of Rathbone has improved customer flow and provided seating options that students have enjoyed. Some students prefer the privacy of the booths while others want to be closer to the windows in order to take advantage of the tremendous view. Others, such as athletic teams, like to eat as a group and enjoy the larger tables that are provided. Rathbone student restaurant seats 380 with 80 of these seats in a side room which offers a totally different environment. This room has a 60” flat screen tv so students watch CNN or ESPN while they dine. The design of Rathbone with carpeting in the dining areas provides a comfortable place for students to eat and interact with others.

We view sustainability and social responsibility as vital initiatives. The following have been implemented:

oEliminated trays in all student restaurants. (Year: 2008; Driver: Dining Services)

oInstituted use of Geosystem 9000 from Ecolab at all dining locations on campus.

(2007; Dining Services)

oInstituted a reusable “to go” program in all three of our student restaurants on campus. (2008; Dining Services)

oBegan a program of single stream recycling, enabling us to co-mingle glass, paper and plastic. (2008; Campus wide sustainability mission)

oNegotiated a waste management contract with Smarter Fuel, a bio-diesel fuel company. (2007; Dining Services)

oUse of Xpressnap napkin holders thereby reducing waste by guaranteeing a 25% decrease in napkin usage. (2008; Dining Services)

oOffering a 100% corn based packaging product available as an alternative option in most retail locations on campus. (2008; Dining Services)

oProudly serving Fair Trade coffee from Starbuck’s, Seattle’s Best, and Green Mountain Coffee in all of our dining locations. (2007; Dining Services)

oUse of biodegradable cups from Starbuck’s and Seattle’s Best. (2007; Dining Services)

oIn conjunction with Residential Services, provided eco-friendly coffee mugs to first year students. (2008; Student driven)

oLehigh Dining will introduce the use of industrial size composters during fall 2009.

(2009; Dining Services)

At Lehigh University we offer comment boards in all our student restaurant locations to ensure that all of our customers have continuous input regarding our dining program. Many of our customers use this comment board to communicate what they like and dislike about our programs. Lehigh Dining looks at all feedback as “good feedback” because we can determine what our customer base really wants in their dining program across campus. We also have a long-standing, vital and productive relationship with many student groups (Student Senate, Green Action, Healthy Hawks, etc.) who we meet with and discuss topics such as enhancing vegetarian selections, sustainability, healthy choices, hours of operation, etc. We view our students not only as customers but also as partners who help us make decisions. The more they are involved and informed, the better we can serve them.

In addition, we meet with the Admissions staff, Dean of Students Office, and Athletics administration to ensure we are meeting the needs of these groups. We want to make sure Dining Services is helping to attract prospective students and then adding to the overall Lehigh experience once they are here. Partnering with these departments has been critical to our success.

Good customer service is about bringing customers back and about sending them away happy?..happy enough to pass positive feedback about our dining operation to others. We look at customer service by the statement: “You will be judged by what you do, not by what you say”. Therefore we listen to our customers, deal directly with complaints, take the extra step, do not make promises we can’t keep, and sometimes throw in a little extra.

All dining employees are trained with a nationwide Sodexo program called the Circle of Customer Excellence (COCE). This customer service focused program sets the expectation and standards of Customer Excellence, teaching everything from hospitality basics to how to handle a guest complaint. COCE star nominations are submitted each month and are awarded appropriately.

The Dining Services team has bought into the idea of creating a vibrant dining program that complements and enhances the overall academic mission of the university. We know students will get a great education at Lehigh, we also want them to have a great experience as well. Dining Services helps by marketing to prospective students and then helps retain them. The dining staff makes human connections which are vitally important to the success of Lehigh. They help make Lehigh what it is ?..they help prospective students, students, faculty, and staff feel comfortable and cared for.

Dining Services partners with Admissions during prospective student days, open houses, and tours. We meet with the Admissions staff to make sure that we are meeting their needs of attracting prospective students. Our dining managers are more visible on special recruiting days and meet and greet prospective students and parents and are always willing to answer questions.

We have been dealing with more and more students with special dietary needs and the dining staff is willing to meet with any prospective student to put them at ease and explain how we can meet their particular needs (parents love this too).

The dining program at Lehigh remains financially sound due in part to the ongoing collaboration with the campus community, client liaison and the current contractor Sodexo. Lehigh University along with Sodexo continues to evaluate all current points of sales and operations and possible addition of new concepts or programs that contribute to a proactive business module with the mind set of promoting and increasing top line revenue as our first means of business growth or cost controls. With this revenue growth comes minimal or in some cases no additional cost and as a direct result will reduce percentages for cost of operations. Some cost-serving measures include:

? Use of internal or Lehigh supported departments rather than outsourcing include: maintenance, engineering, printing, Telecommunication/IT support, Single stream recycling, Composting and ongoing evaluation of waste removal to reduce hauling expenses

? Sound purchasing initiatives

? Creative menu engineering

? Offering daily specials to customers

? Reducing hours of operation in some facilities

? Energy saving initiatives such as tray less student restaurants