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Online survey: university catering achieves good overall satisfaction

Eine Studentin nimmt an der Essenausgabe der Mensa von einer Mensafachkraft einen Teller mit einem Fleischgericht in Empfang. Rechts neben ihr steht ein Student.

The Studentenwerk SH conducted a satisfaction survey among the guests of its refectories, cafeterias and café lounges in Schleswig-Holstein from 9 to 29 May 2022. Now, university catering manager Torsten Schmidt presents the most important results and measures derived from them.

A total of 20 establishments in Kiel, Lübeck, Flensburg, Heide and Wedel were examined with regard to the quality of the offer, service and premises. 5,266 people took part in the online survey. "Measured against 60,000 students in Schleswig-Holstein, this is a high response rate according to the experience of Conomic, the company that conducted the survey," says university catering manager Torsten Schmidt. "We can draw valuable conclusions for ourselves from the results."

Overall satisfaction with the refectories, cafeterias and café lounges of the Studentenwerk SH is good (grade 2.3). The respondents are particularly satisfied with the service (grade 1.7) and the premises (grade 1.9). The range of services received an overall grade of 2.5. In a comparison of the locations in Kiel, the Café Lounges and Cafeterias I and II on the CAU campus and the American Diner on the campus of Kiel University of Applied Sciences show above-average values in overall satisfaction. The café lounge and cafeteria in Flensburg, the refectory in Heide and the cafeteria in Lübeck also stand out with above-average satisfaction scores.

According to the university catering director, the survey of food types was revealing. At 44 per cent, the majority of respondents say they are flexitarians. A quarter of the respondents like to eat meat often and a good further quarter describe themselves as vegetarians or vegans. "We were surprised that the vegetarian or vegan offer is not only of interest to vegetarians and vegans, but that a good half of meat lovers also use it from time to time."

In terms of the importance of the vegan offer, 56 per cent of respondents said it was very or somewhat important to them that there was a choice of a fully vegan dish or vegan snack every day. The university catering manager is pleased to report that this point has already been met. "We often even offer several vegan dishes per day. In addition, there are special promotions for World Vegan Day, among others, and a selection of vegan snacks in the cafeterias." According to the survey, satisfaction with the quality and taste of the vegetarian and vegan offerings is also at a good level overall. The respondents see potential for improvement in the size and variety of the offerings. "We are continuously working on this," says Schmidt. "We will continue to expand the offer."

Almost half of the respondents would like to see more regional dishes in the cafeterias of the Studentenwerk SH in the future. Vegetables and salads as well as organic and international dishes are each mentioned as wishes by more than a third of the respondents. "We already have all of these in our range and will increasingly take these aspects into account in our recipe development. We want to advertise the measures we have taken even more strongly," Schmidt emphasises. "A special sustainability advertising campaign is currently running on our social media channels."

In connection with the topic of sustainability, it is interesting to note that while 94 per cent of those surveyed consider a sustainable offer to be very important, more than half of them do not want to pay a higher meal price for it. "This reflects exactly the dilemma we sometimes find ourselves in. Of course, we also pay attention to the most moderate prices possible when buying organic products and meat from species-appropriate animal husbandry, but quality has its price. Our goal is to have something for every budget and every requirement.

Specifically related to the cafeterias and café lounges, the survey revealed that just under half of the respondents would like snacks - either hot or cold - above all. A third would like to have a full lunch offer there as well as smoothies and sweets. Results that will be incorporated into the future design of the offer. 58 per cent would like to see more to-go offers. According to Schmidt, this is already actively promoted by a reusable system and the possibility to bring one's own cups and containers.

In addition to the types of food, the survey also examined the types of users of the refectories, cafeterias and café lounges. Schmidt sees a lot of potential for increasing the frequency of visits among sporadic guests (57 %) and non-users (8 %). Among other things, they cited the price-performance ratio, portion sizes that are too small and the limited opening hours as barriers to use. In view of the enormous increase in food and energy prices, the leeway in food prices is limited, but the recipes have already been partly revised and the portion sizes increased for some dishes.

"We also want to break down prejudices against Mensa food through various advertising campaigns and appeal to students who have never been to us before." As for opening hours, he said the team is doing its best to adapt them to local demand. "We hope to successfully counteract the current staff shortage by advertising vacancies so that more flexible action is possible. We are currently looking for student workers at all sites and look forward to receiving applications via our careers page."

Exciting in connection with the pandemic: 50 per cent of the respondents whose place of residence or work was already in Flensburg, Heide, Kiel, Lübeck or Wedel before Corona stated that they visit the gastronomic establishments less frequently today than before the pandemic. A result that is reflected in the actual guest numbers. Schmidt explains that with the start of the winter semester, significantly more guests are coming again, but not yet as many as before. Among other things, the university catering team wants to attract more people again by offering attractive promotions and highlighting the advantages of visiting the dining hall. "The dining halls are not only places to eat, but also places to socialise and relax," says Schmidt.

Last but not least, the survey results provided individual impulses for each of the 20 facilities examined. Measures already planned are now to be successively implemented. "We thank everyone who took part in the survey and provided us with valuable suggestions." Feedback on canteen food is also possible at any time in person or online at " >> Essen >> Mensafeedback".

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