And how to turn them into strategies for customer satisfaction
Your school’s dining program plays a big role in student and family satisfaction—maybe even more than you think. Parents evaluate your end-to-end dining experience according to their family’s needs: cost, convenience, communication. Your dining program can be a major asset for your school when it comes to creating value around your student experience; that is, if you make sure you’re addressing parents’ concerns before they’re even voiced.
As private K-12 school dining specialists, we’ve seen a thing or two in our years of serving schools, students, and families. Here are a few of the top concerns we hear from parents and schools when it comes to a quality dining program.
Parents of children with food allergies or other special dietary needs have a heightened awareness of ingredients and cooking processes—and rightfully so. These vigilant parents have spent years guarding their children from dangers hidden in the everyday snacks their peers enjoy; they’ve trained their children to ask allergen questions and make safe choices.
Clearly addressing allergy concerns before parents come to you with questions shows them that you care deeply about their children’s safety, you’re aware of special dietary requirements, and willing to meet those needs.
Proactive efforts like clearly explaining your school’s policy on tree nuts, introducing a comprehensive labeling system, or simply inviting parents to an allergen discussion at the school can be essential when it comes to easing parent concerns about allergen safety.
Cost, Value and Waste
Whether they are investing in a meal plan each semester or simply paying for food service as a part of their annual tuition, parents want to be sure the food service options at your school are a good value. Most parents evaluate a dining program’s value based on whether or not their kids want to eat the food that’s being served every day, and how much of the meal they’re consuming vs. how much goes to waste.
Most children arrive home from school ready for a hearty snack; when they arrive ravenous because “lunch was gross and I didn’t eat it,” parents feel that frustration all the way down to their wallets.
Addressing cost, value and waste concerns starts with menus and perception. Ever-changing menus packed with variety create the perception that kids will be able to find food they like on a regular basis. Offering more choices creates an experience that feels worth the cost, and students are more likely to participate and fill their bellies during the day.
Menu branding can play a major role in program participation as well, creating an organized, easy-to-navigate, visually appealing system of available options and positioning them to feel high-quality and desirable, even rivaling familiar brands outside campus.
Available Healthy Options
Students and parents alike are more in tune than ever with the need for healthy, quality food choices. Parents want to know that their children have the opportunity to extend the healthy habits they’re trying to promote at home, rather than fighting against an opposing nutritional force.
How can you reassure parents that your dining program is invested in their child’s health? Invite them for dinner! A parent dinner showcasing menu options can be a fun way to engage parents and students in a dialogue about healthy food choices away from home. Parents will get a hands-on look at portion size, food freshness, taste and presentation. Give tours of the kitchen to demonstrate your culinary practices and show off fresh-made options.
Parents want to know that should they have concerns about your school’s dining program or their student’s nutrition, you’re all ears. Instead of waiting for parents to contact you, open the door and invite feedback from your school’s families on a regular basis through quick, easy online surveys. You’ll gain valuable insights into what families value most, and you’ll be able to make improvements—even small ones—that let parents know you’re listening and available.
Regular satisfaction surveys are a cornerstone of Pedestal Foods’ business practices, for both students and parents. Regular polling is the key to creating top-notch customer satisfaction, and it creates a wonderful open door that puts parents’ minds at ease.
What concerns do the parents of your students raise on a regular basis? What do you think matters most to them in a dining program?