The Dining Concierge program operated by campus dining services provider Sodexo at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia stands out from the typical university customer service programs in several respects. First, and most importantly, it brings in-person customer service right to the students, who don’t have to search for the right person, e-mail address or suggestion box where they can deliver their question or comment. Located at a desk in the lobby of the University Center, the major hub for student dining and other student activities, it makes it easy for any student or other guest to stop by to ask questions, make suggestions or express concerns about University Dining operations. The Concierge is highly visible and accessible to everyone, and she has established a strong presence, engaging with students, faculty and staff on a daily basis.
In addition, Dining Concierge is a “one stop shop” for anything relating to University Dining, from questions about a retail brand dining operation or the resident dining Restaurants at the Top of the University Center to meal plans, dietary restrictions/food allergies and special events. The Dining Concierge is able to handle all campus dining matters and can usually provide answers to questions or solutions to problems on the spot.
Lastly, the Dining Concierge blends great human interaction with the best of technology through the use of Sodexo’s MyDtxt text messaging services, which can respond to questions and suggestions as well as send out important communications to the 500+ students, faculty and staff who have opted in to the UMWFoodies text messaging group. Members of this group get immediate notifications when emergency situations require changes in services or hours, as happened several times last year when there was a gas leak in the University Center, a blizzard closed several locations and prompted serving hour changes at others, and a water leak caused the closing of the Panera Bread Café. UMWFoodies also get notices about special events, promotions, and free food “pop-ups”.
Photo: Dining Concierge Rose Benedict sits at a desk in the lobby of the University Center, the major hub for student dining and other student activities at University of Mary Washington, making it easy for any student or other guest to stop by to ask questions.
Photo credit: Sodexo
In its early stages, the Dining Concierge was primarily focused on providing assistance to students with food allergies or dietary restrictions and didn’t have a very visible physical presence. However, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing isolation that students were experiencing, Sodexo decided that the human touch was really needed, so in the fall of 2021 it brought the Dining Concierge to center stage, giving students a warm, friendly, knowledgeable and very visible person they could connect with.
Since launching the full Dining Concierge program last fall, written complaints about dining services have dropped precipitously, from an average of three or four written (comment cards, online comments, e-mail) complaints a week to three or less a month, while the online Customer Satisfaction Survey, which is offered once each semester, saw the score for “means of providing feedback” going up to 3.6 from 3.4 the previous semester.
“The Dining Concierge program has truly been an asset to students at the University of Mary Washington,” comments University Dining Liaison Chris Porter. “Having the concierge in a place that is visible and easily accessible has helped students get questions answered and services provided.”