Before the pandemic, Northeastern Dining’s surprise culinary pop-ups took place every Friday in the food hall, “with hundreds of students lining up for a mysterious culinary journey,” recalls Northeastern Dining marketing specialist Kerry Gilcoine. “Our guests never knew how we’d take their taste buds for a ride.”
Now, with social distancing and safety as priorities, the dining team at Northeastern University has had to dig deep to find ways to connect with students, an important part of any college dining program.
“Now in these unprecedented times, we’ve had to become more creative with the ways we engage our students and add value to our program,” Gilcoine says.
In order to innovate in a chilly Boston winter, the dining team has been turning up the heat—literally—with multiple outdoor heaters and fire pits, making safe social distancing outdoors a less shivery experience. Free s’mores kits around the fires were a great ice breaker, and reportedly new friends were made!
The dining team’s marketing arm is implementing and increasing the frequency of a “surprise and delight” campaign, “where we pop up with treats across campus,” Gilcoine says.
Other delightful surprises have included nachos day, autumn caramel apples in go-cups, a “finals frenzy” fuel kits with snacks, an Oreo ice cream cake giveaway for the last day of classes,
“We like to think we made some magic happen with our free s’mores kits,” Gilcoine says. “It was wonderful to see the students light up from this small act of kindness. We also got to witness social engagement with new and old friends, which can be so rare during this trying time.”