In Spring 2015, PKC was retained by the University of Maryland College Park to complete an Anytime Dining feasibility study to provide specific strategies UMD Dining Services could use to implement Anytime Dining in the campus’s three residential dining venues, what changes would need to be made to the campus meal plans and what the overall financial implications would be for the campus dining department including support services.
To complete this study, PKC analyzed UMD’s housing master plan so that we had a clear understanding of the University’s goals and missions as they relate to living on campus, living/learning communities and the undergraduate student experience. One of the goals from the master plan was to “transform the undergraduate residential life experience.” (93% of students living on campus at the time where freshmen.) In addition, our team also spent three days on the UMD College Park campus interviewing key stakeholders and students regarding their perception of the current residential dining centers as well as their perceived value of the meal plans, hours of operation, menu variety and selection and more. We also toured all three dining venues and studied the drawings for these facilities in order to provide the University with a space allocation program illustrating what changes would need to be made to all three in order to offer Anytime Dining.
Our qualitative market research revealed that the current hours of operation at the three residential dining centers were not aligned with students’ lifestyle needs (hours were limited Monday-Friday and on weekends) and students expressed frustration with leftover meals, the facilities fee UMD charged as part of their meal plan billing and confusion regarding the different meal plan options for different areas of campus. Students were also frustrated by the often long queuing lines in the three residential dining venues, especially during peak meal periods.
After completing our qualitative market research and reviewing all of the background data provided to us by UMD, the PKC team returned to campus to present to the UMD Dining Services team with our short-term and longer-term, no and/or low-cost recommendations and strategies they could use to implement a next-generation Anytime Dining program on campus in Fall 2015 prior to the University’s future plans to build a new dining hall commons on North campus. Our recommendations included three Anytime Dining meal plans that would allow meal plan holders unlimited access to all three dining venues during operating hours (up to 24 hours), expanded dining options and stations to include more made-to-order options and offerings students wanted (like name brand coffee), the addition of social amenities like free printing and soft seating that would create a community feel in these spaces and the aforementioned space allocation program, demand model and conceptual schematic drawings that illustrated the physical changes UMD Dining Services would need to make to these dining venues (including the number of seats required in each) in order to increase customer throughput, provide inviting and comfortable serveries and dining areas and to provide Anytime Dining.
As part of this project, we also completed financial modeling that illustrated the positive impact the implementation of Anytime Dining and the new meal plans would have on UMD’s bottom line and how it would impact the dining department’s support services.
The UMD Dining Services team embraced our recommendations but decided to implement Anytime Dining in Fall 2016 versus Fall 2015 in order to allow them sufficient time to make all of the physical changes required to the dining venues as a result of this study and to work with residential advisors and other student groups to explain the exciting changes to the dining program and meal plans and to generate excitement and interest for the new Anytime Dining Program.