News Date: 
Friday, October 20, 2006

Source: FoodService Director Magazine

ATHENS, GA—A coffee bar on a college campus is not unique. But "Joe at the O" at the University of Georgia may very well be.

That's because the coffee bar is located in Oglethorpe Dining Commons, an all-you-can-eat residence hall dining facility on the 34,000-student campus. According to foodservice director Mike Floyd, it is just one of the innovations that has more than doubled meal counts in the recently renovated dining hall.

Dominant sex: "Our gender ratio is increasing, with females now making up 62.5% of the student population," says Floyd by way of explanation. "We wanted to expand our market mix to attract more [women] to the meal plans."

Joe at the O was one of the hooks Floyd and his staff thought would work. The other was the Oriental Trading Market, which features a Mongolian grill and sushi made on-site.

Floyd hasn't conducted a survey yet to find out if the changes to Oglethorpe, which was gutted over the summer and expanded to 452 seats, have attracted more women. But it is drawing more students overall.

"Last year, Oglethorpe was the least-used of our four dining commons," Floyd explains. "Now, the customer load has been spread evenly among the four halls. For example, we're serving 1,600 meals at lunch in Oglethorpe. Last year, the average was between 500 and 600."

More than ever: In addition, the number of students on a meal plan this year broke the 8,000 mark, an all-time high, which Floyd attributed in part to the marketing of the new Oglethorpe.

What makes the number even more impressive, Floyd adds, is that resident students are not required to buy a meal plan.

"We added 450 students to meal plans, and 85% of the meal plans sold this year were full, seven-day plans," Floyd notes. Even commuting students by into the meal plan; 1,800 contracts are sold to students living in off-campus housing.