5 Ways to engage students in your dining halls

5 Ways to engage students in your dining halls


The dining hall represents much more than a place where students go to fill their appetites – it’s an opportunity to increase student engagement. Being a main epicenter of the entire campus, the dining hall experience can – and should – reflect the school’s culture and brand. And if you want that experience to earn a good reputation, it’s going to take more than a handful of student surveys.

Here is how you can increase student engagement:

1. Recruit the help of Instagram and Snapchat

Instagram – the trendy, photogenic social media platform that lets users tell about their daily lives through photos.

Snapchat – the other trendy, photogenic social media platform that lets users tell about their daily lives through photos, but with a 24-hour expiration date of all photos shared.

You can use these platforms (and other social media superstars, if you wish) in two ways:

First, create an Instagram or Snapchat account for your dining hall and post quality photos of the day’s menu items, and share them with your followers.

Or, you can encourage students to post their own tasty-looking photos of the meals they receive in your dining halls. Showing that your staff is capable of creating delicious, fresh meals can chop the stigma of low quality food many people associate with dining hall cuisine. Plus, seeing such tasty looking food has a tendency to make people hungry.

2. Join the conversation

Busy lunch hours don’t leave much time to initiate a conversation with students about their experience. But slow times offer a good opportunity venture around to tables and introduce yourself. Take some time to get to know familiar faces, find out what they like or dislike about their dining experience, or what foods they’d like to see on the menu.

You could also skip the feedback part all together and focus on building a good relationship with your student patrons. Joining the conversations provides students another connection to their university’s culture and foster a sense of community.

3. Host events students can get excited about

Cooking classes, live music, trivia, game nights – students are always looking for cheap (or free) activities to fill their social calendars between study sessions. As a campus staple, your dining hall offers the prime spot to host events that students will actually want to come to.

Bringing students into your dining halls for activities other than meals serves several purposes:

  • It gives them a chance to meet the people who prepare their meals
  • It gives you a chance to get to know students
  • It brings in students who haven’t yet visited your dining hall

4. Add value by becoming an informational hot spot

Your purpose as a dining hall goes well beyond keeping students fueled between classes. You can use your status as a primary fixture on campus to serve up important information students want to know about:

  • Use digital signage to post university announcements, upcoming events, weekly menus, and important reminders
  • Let students advertise their club, sorority, or fraternity events with digital signage or tabletop collateral
  • Hang a community bulletin board for students to post information

Anytime you can create additional value for students gives you another way to boost both engagement and your dining hall’s reputation.

5. Connect with opt-in SMS text messaging

If you want to up real-time engagement and feedback, invest in an SMS text messaging platform. Students can opt-in to receive text messages from the dining hall. You can then send out e-receipts, surveys, coupons, daily menus, new item announcements, or event reminders. Don’t forget to track and measure engagement to see what’s getting responses and what’s being ignored. This data can help you pilot your future texting strategy.

What are you doing to cultivate an engaging experience in your dining halls? Let us know.

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