OVERVIEW — SEPTEMBER 2012
Listen to Your Heart
Here's a question for you: Where would you be without your students?
No, we aren't talking about your customers — it is pretty obvious where you would be without them. We're talking about your student employees. For most, if not all, of college and university food service, student employees are the heart of the operation. They are on the front lines when it comes to customer interaction.
This month's Mind Your Business question asks dining personnel at three different schools how they train their student employees. In all cases, student employee training is taken very seriously — as it should be.
We don't have to tell you that listening to your student employees is important to running your day-to-day operations. They are a great source for the latest trends among their peers.
It is also important to take advantage of the “student” part of their title. Your more experienced student employees will have a unique perspective, and it is wise to take advantage of it. They know both sides of college food service — both as customers and as employees. That perspective may give you the best balance between running an efficient operation and meeting your student customers' desires.
Your student employees aren't just important to your operations for the work they do serving guests — they are also “insiders” to your operations for the student body at large. They will quickly let their friends know what is right or wrong with your operation, affecting the reputation that Dining Services has among the students. For this reason, it is important to encourage them to speak to a supervisor when they see something negative. Attentiveness to your employees' concerns will go a long way toward keeping a positive reputation.
In his guest editorial for The Back Page in this issue, Mark Hayes, director of University Dining Services at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, discusses the importance of student employee involvement in his operations. “We recognized that our long-term success rests on cultivating an empowered, well-trained, motivated and inspired student management team as our core.”
He also discusses how being employed in dining services can be important for their careers. For some, what was once only a way to help cover tuition or earn a little extra money, is now a career. Russ Meyer, foodservice director at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the winner of this year's Theodore W. Minah Distinguished Service Award at the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Conference in Boston, Mass., pursued a career in college dining after working in the dining halls as a student at Michigan State University while earning a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology.
One other thing that is important to remember — be nice to all of your student employees, because if they decide to choose a career in college and university food service, you may end up working for them.