Troy Dining Services is on a quest to improve food quality and customer service through the Mystery Shoppers program that is designed for students to give feedback on a daily basis.
Mystery Shoppers is a program started by Troy Dining Services last fall to generate more feedback from students on how to improve dining experiences.
Elizabeth Chisholm, a senior human resources major from Panama City, Florida, and Sodexo intern, is responsible for the program.
“As long as you are a student and you eat on campus, you are good to go,” Chisholm said.
Students who participate in the program get a different experience and “get to help out the university.”
According to Chisholm, students have the opportunity to apply for the program and start mystery shopping after an orientation session. The program lasted only a month last semester as a trial run, but this time it will continue for the entire semester.
The participants remain anonymous by dining at the on-campus restaurants and Trojan Dining as normal.
According to Chisholm, the students use their student I.D. cards for purchases, so employees and other students never have a clue who the actual mystery shoppers are.
The employees at all of the locations are aware of the program, but they are not informed when the program starts, when it ends or how many mystery shoppers are involved.
Mystery shoppers are scheduled to eat at certain eateries at different time periods, and once they eat, they fill out scorecards based on their dining experience.
“It’s really easy. All you have to do is eat on campus and be able to write,” Chisholm said.
The Mystery Shoppers program is not a paid job, but the participants get to be a voice for other students who eat on campus, and they are reimbursed the flex points they use, according to Chisholm.
With only six shoppers last semester, Troy Dining Services was able to take into consideration things to improve on, but as many students as possible are encouraged to apply.
During the ongoing application period, 10 students had applied for the program. Chisholm said she was excited to see the increase because when more students participate, it allows for the opportunity to receive diverse feedback.
“I think we got some of the same information we always do, but we decided to alter our score card a little bit to get some new answers back,” Chisholm said. “Saying a sandwich took too long to make is different than saying it took 10 minutes.”
According to Chisholm, changing the scorecard is going to help Troy Dining Services better analyze the students’ answers and make necessary changes.
Avalon Dudinksy, a sophomore marketing major from Panama City, Florida, was one of the first mystery shoppers for Troy Dining Services.
“It was a unique opportunity to look at the food services offered through Sodexo,” Dudinksy said. “As mystery shoppers, we recorded our experiences in a way that communicated exactly what met our expectations as well as what needed improvement.”
Darunda Wilkins, a junior business management major from Montgomery, also participated in the program during its first semester.
Wilkins believes that her involvement with the program helped to “provide Trojan Dining with info they cannot see themselves.”
Some of the things she observed included the way the workers interacted with students, the quality of the food and how students felt about wait times for their orders.
“Mystery shopping gives sporadic checks of our dining services, and it gets the student body involved,” said Sheetal Nangia, the marketing manager for Troy Dining Services.
The Mystery Shoppers program is not the only way students have the chance to give feedback to Troy Dining Services.
Students can voice their opinions by completing the three-week survey that is presented every semester, by utilizing the contact information for the managers available in the dining areas or by sending feedback via the portal on the Troy Dining website. Troy Dining Services also has a presence on social media and through the Food Advisory Council at Troy (FACT) Committee.
“We now have an app for students to get updates about our dining services,” Nangia said. “Bite is a free app that is automatically updated every 15 minutes, and it allows students to know what options are being served and to keep up with nutrition facts.”
Bite is also compatible with the Fitbit devices.
“We are always coming up with ways to improve customer service because that is our business,” Nangia said. “We don’t want just great food but great business as well.”
The FACT Committee is designed for students to voice their concerns about the dining services in person to the managers and directors of Troy Dining Services.
A few times each semester, the committee and any students who want to be present meet in the faculty and staff dining hall in Trojan Dining for a meal, during which they present their concerns.
Maxwell Herman, a junior hospitality management major from Panama City Beach, Florida, is the co-chair of the committee along with Chisholm.
“They’ve been really attentive to our questions and comments and stuff like that,” Herman said. “They’ve been working to change certain things in the dining hall just by adding new foods and allowing more vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.”