Satisfied Students Give ACU Food Service No. 2 Rank in the Nation
for immediate release Nov. 14, 1997When Ed Jenkins was hired as Abilene Christian University's director of dining services, he was told by ACU administrators: "When the students are happy, we're happy."
Well, the numbers are in. And everyone is very happy.
ACU students' overall satisfaction with campus food services ranked No. 2 in the nation in a survey done last spring at the 420 institutions served by ARAMARK, the large food service company with which ACU contracts.
Students rate overall performance and specific attributes such as food quality, service, etc. on a five-point scale (poor, fair, good, very good, excellent). The rank represents an average of all responses.
"Satisfaction ratings have stayed high since the Bean (the cafeteria's nickname) was renovated and food services were expanded in 1991," said Kevin Watson, director of business services and investments. "We are very pleased to see how well ACU stacks up against other schools."
The No. 1 ranked school last spring was College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y. with an enrollment of 700 students. Chatham College in Pittsburg, Pa., with an enrollment of 1,700 students tied with ACU in the No. 2 spot.
So, ACU was first among schools with enrollment above 2,000 and first in the Southwest region.
The 1991 renovations were part of a new philosophy of customer service on campus, Watson said.
"Jack Rich (executive vice president) looked at the general student satisfaction survey and found the areas with the greatest gap were food and housing," he said. "These issues were addressed as a priority because they relate specifically to student retention. How well students enjoy their experience on campus can affect their experience in the classroom and ultimately whether they stay in school."
Watson and Rich visited 20-25 schools across the nation and pulled the best concepts from each one. They talked to students and observed how the facilities looked and how the traffic flowed. They looked at shopping mall food courts because "that's what students are used to."
"Our primary goal was not just good looks, but good food - including color, temperature and taste," Watson said.
"Our charge was to make the campus dining experience a good social time," he said. "Students may not remember the food when they leave campus, but we hope they remember it was a comfortable, enjoyable place to be with friends."
Not only was the main cafeteria renovated, but extra retail operations were added - Pizza Hut, TCBY and Chick-Fil-A. The main cafeteria includes nine service lines: Salad Garden (full salad bar), The Cafe (homestyle cooking), Mama's Pasta (Italian), Hoagie (deli), Wok 'n' Roll (oriental), Wildcat Grill (burgers, etc.), Healthy Habits (low-fat entrees), Old El Paso (Mexican), and Sweet Sensations (dessert). Students can also pick up food to go at The Jelly Bean or The Bagel Wagon. Finally, The Bean Sprout, a restaurant and soda fountain similar in spirit to Chili's, was renovated and reopened in January 1996 in the basement of the McGlothlin Campus Center.
Carrie-Anne Laird, sophomore undeclared major from Lincoln, Calif., said the Bean's food is better than other institutions she has visited and the national ranking does not surprise her.
"They have a variety," she said. "It's not like the same ol', same ol'."
Watson attributes much of ACU's food service success to the fact that "ACU and ARAMARK have a true partnership."
"We expect them to be a profitable business, but we are demanding of quality. Our desire is to help them and their desire is to help us," he said.
More specifically, Watson attributes ACU's success to manager Ed Jenkins, who has 30 years of experience in the business.
"Ed knows our mission, he believes in what we do, and he provides great leadership," Watson said. "Ed cares deeply about what students want. He understands this is a priority for us."
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