How to use surveys to evaluate and improve your school’s dining program

When is the last time you asked students what they *really* think about your school’s dining program? Given an opportunity to deliver honest feedback, you might be surprised by what they like and don’t like. More importantly, you might gain some insights on how even small changes can make a big difference in student satisfaction. 

Regular surveys are an invaluable tool for “taking the temperature” of your student customer and understanding where your program excels and what needs work. Engaging with students and listening to their ideas also makes them feel included in their school community and the decisions being made; that sense of ownership is one important key to a thriving school culture. 

Whether you’ve polled students in the past or are about to embark on a maiden survey voyage, there are a few key points to survey success. 


Plan Around your Goals.

Think through what you really want to learn from your audience before you build the survey. If you’re interested in feedback on menu items, ask about those specific items. If you’re interested in ideas for improvement, ask your students how they’re using your service now and what could be better. Surveying for survey’s sake won’t get you very far; have a goal in mind so you can make the most of your efforts. 

Make it Measurable. 

When you’re gathering survey data, avoid long-form answers or open-ended questions. Include as many multiple choice, ranking, and yes/ no questions as possible so you can create consistency in your students’ responses and spot trends and common themes more easily. 

Keep it Short.

Life is busy, students are busy, you’re busy. To maximize participation, keep your survey to four or five short questions—something they can fill out in passing.

Think about Delivery.

If you have the capability to deploy your survey digitally (email, social media, or electronic device stations in your dining area), use them! Digital surveys are more engaging for students and will boost participation. 

Survey regularly. 

A one-time survey is unlikely to give you a clear picture of your dining program’s performance. Students might jump on the rare opportunity to unload, filling your data with complaints; others might avoid the task completely, not knowing what to expect. Regular, consistent surveys build trust and confidence in your relationship with your student customers, and give them a chance to contribute to your program regularly. 

Consistent surveying also gives you the chance to chart progress and trends. For example, you might be curious about whether students feel the lines move more efficiently now that you’ve incorporated a “Grab and Go” station for quick items; a “before and after” survey will give you the insights you need. 

Regular surveys also give you a repository of data to show your faculty, leadership, and staff an accurate picture of your program’s performance, and can even help you make an airtight case for improvements and upgrades. 

Surveying students, staff, faculty and parents doesn’t require a lot of effort to get started. Free tools like Google Surveys, Survey Monkey, and others make it ultra simple to set up, send, and evaluate surveys on just about anything. 


Want to know more?

We’d be happy to share our knowledge. Pedestal Foods incorporates regular, targeted student and staff surveys into every dining program we manage. We can help you think through your objectives and create a survey experience that benefits everyone involved.