Illinois State University

In 2005, our firm was retained by Illinois State University (ISU) to develop a long-term campus-wide strategic master plan for Campus Dining Services. The goal of the planning effort was to work closely with campus planners to conduct a market assessment, evaluate and confirm dining optimum location(s) and develop a strategic planning document to assist ISU as its campus landscape changed. The planning project resulted in a multi-million design initiative to renovate Linkins Dining Center. Our firm was the lead foodservice consultant on this project.

In order to create a meaningful strategic plan, our team conducted in-depth qualitative and quantitative market research including on-site focus groups with students, faculty and staff along with personal interviews and a web-based survey distributed to the ISU students, faculty and staff. This market research focused on identifying customers’ preferences as they relate to meal plans and determining if the current meal plan options and policies contributed to or detracted from the potential success of the Campus Dining Services, customers’ preferences regarding national brands, customers’ level of satisfaction for each venue on campus and customers’ perceptions of on-campus catering and conference services.

Our study also included a review of the feasibility of central production including service methods, operational requirements, menu items that are likely candidates for central production, as well as providing an estimate of how many meals will be served and determining how many on-campus dining venue locations central production should be designed to support. This review included a review of the central bakery and warehouse operation and identification of potential conflicts or benefits of separating cook chill from this location or combining the central warehouse and bakery and cook-chill facility into one location. We developed a staffing matrix for central production, outlined staffing requirements and provided a calculated return on investment for cook-chill production.

Our team also prepared extensive financial models, staffing matrices and developed a payback analysis (ROI) for proposed foodservice venues and reviewed current business systems to recommend necessary improvements.

Our scope of work included the development of a preliminary design program for the proposed new construction and/or renovations of residential, retail and convenience-store operations. We prepared a demand analysis for each board and cash operation and recommended modifications or new constructions, along with a preliminary estimate of capital equipment investments and hand-drawn schematic drawings of the proposed concepts. Our team then used the information collected to develop recommendations for the enhancements of foodservice venues and services.

When Illinois State introduced the new changes to the campus dining program (after initial push back from students and significant marketing efforts by CDS to explain the benefits of the new program as well as benchmarking site visits to other campus to see how our recommended program worked), the then student-body president said: “The meal plan options now fit every student’s lifestyle and needs, whether they are on campus, off campus, or commute. It’s great to be able to find a meal plan that fits me. With the addition of off-campus meal plans, it allows those students to once again enjoy a great dining experience with convenience of being right on campus.”

Since CDS implemented our master plan recommendations, they have significantly increased the number of off campus meal plan sales (from fewer than 200 in 2005 to a little more than 1,200 in 2010), have increased participation among faculty and staff who are now eating in the residential dining venues again and have doubled its reserves.