At Kitchens with Confidence (KwC) we are constantly on the move auditing kitchens across the nation. We love going in and seeing the amazing work food service professionals do to keep their diners safe. That work and behind the scenes action is something we’d really love to bring out in the open. What these passionate people are doing is creating a safe environment for diners with food allergies and intolerances and we think it’s awesome!
The manager of KwC Ian interviewed Gina Keilen from MSU about Thrive their dining hall free from the top 8 allergens and gluten. Ian asked her specifically about the return on investment they’ve seen since they decided open an allergen-free facility. Her insight was inspiring, and we wanted to share it with you all!
It’s virtually impossible to truly know if students choose other schools due to something negative on campus or due to not seeing something they wanted. Gina was however able to give us insight into those who did choose MSU. “I have talked with several prospective students that said Thrive was their tipping point to coming to MSU. We’ve talked to community members with younger children that said MSU just leaped on their radar and schools of priority. We also have the students that have said they’ve chosen to live on (stay living in our residence halls) another year because of Thrive.” Said Gina Keilen (Registered Dietician for Michigan State University Dining)
“The impact that we’ve had on our students, physically seeing the stress and worry leave people’s faces when we tell them about the operation, and seeing that we can make people cry tears of happiness due to what we can offer and the experience we can give them … that’s our success.”
In terms of ROI- these students’ testimonies are the best and most accurate depiction of why a program is successful. Students with food allergies talk to other students with food allergies. This is why word of mouth is arguably the most powerful and effective form of marketing. Direct feedback is a powerful tool in “measuring” ROI.
So many colleges and universities aim to quantify every new program they implement throughout campus. With an allergen free space, you can track meal swipes and gauge what your most popular items are and see how many people are truly dining there. While this data is great and helpful, the true goal in opening an allergen free space is to take care of students and put their mind at ease when dining on campus. If you open an allergen free space, go a step further and acquire a certification. It’s a great way to assure your current and prospective guests that you are backed by the experts.
A quick intro about Thrive
Michigan State’s all-you-care-to-eat dining hall Thrive opened in summer 2019 and is free of the big 8 allergens plus gluten. Located in the center of campus, it gives students with food allergies a safe, centralized space, for both take-out and dine-in food options. Staff is trained on food allergies and the café is certified by Kitchens with Confidence as free from the big 8 allergens and gluten. Thank you, Gina and Michigan State, for giving students with food allergies a safe and delicious space on campus to dine.