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Understanding your customers

Leeds' Beverley Kenny reflects on the competitive nature of offering catering services at a City Centre Campus

Posted by Hannah Vickers | April 11, 2017 | Catering & hospitality

“Leeds is an incredibly busy campus, we have just under 32,000 students and 8000 staff who need to be catered for on a daily basis. This coupled with the fact that the campus lies at the heart of a diverse City, which offers a vast array of food and drink outlets, inevitably means that we are constantly refining and improving our provision, to ensure we offer good food at good prices. 

Great Food at Leeds is the name of the catering services at Leeds. The service provides customers, staff, students and campus visitors alike with quality fresh food at competitive prices which is at the heart of what we strive to achieve, through the facilities and services we offer across campus. 

We operate in an incredibly competitive market and are mindful that our customer base is very diverse and sensitive to price and quality 

We operate in an incredibly competitive market and are mindful that our customer base is very diverse and sensitive to price and quality. We manage this through conducting regular focus groups with our customers and really get under their skin to gather valuable insight on what we currently sell, what they want to see more of, and what they don’t think we need to sell anymore - ultimately with this strong insight we are able to continually build a strong and ever evolving proposition. 

Visit our campus and you will find a varied offer, whether it’s a freshly made sandwich to take away or to sit down for a hot meal, our 14 cafes and award winning Refectory are there to cater for all. Although we have a strong brand presence around our café facilities, our ongoing challenge is to remain relevant. What we do is more than just offer good food at good prices, we embrace the customer journey by creating great environments, in which our customers can relax, study and collaborate whilst enjoying our food and drink. Our brand values are embedded throughout, these focus on being an ethical and responsible business, providing a quality offer through an extensive range of food. Demonstrating how much we genuinely care for our customers through the catering service we provide for staff and students and providing real value for money, by always offering quality products at a competitive price. 

Following a marketing-led approach we continue to maintain a strong level of engagement with our customers. We have an increasing base of followers on social media and reward their loyalty through a points based loyalty scheme, regular offers and competitions. We assess how well we are doing from the results of our annual customer satisfaction survey and over the last few years we have seen a positive, steady increase in customer satisfaction from 66% in 2011 to 72% in 2016.

In the past year we have made a considerable investment in our café facilities on campus. As part of our overall plan to invest £520m in our campus facilities, to support world-leading research and teaching, opportunities have arisen to refurbish outlets and add to our portfolio. In these projects great emphasis has been placed on creating a strong brand, one that rivals the high street and provides convenient, high quality social spaces for our students and staff. One example of how we have achieved this is during the development of PURE café, which was part of the £41m investment project to upgrade our School of Medicine and Dentistry. 

We were thorough in our approach and implemented a detailed planning process with the users of the building, our main customer base. These included staff and students who had different views on what the café facility should offer. Through dedicated focus groups we were able to embrace their views, interpret their requirements and transform these into an exciting, on-trend offering. The PURE brand differentiates itself from other outlets on and around campus, and provides a uniqueness through menu specific food options, including a focus on convenient yet healthier products, alongside a contemporary, vibrant and welcoming environment in which students and staff can relax, have informal meetings and academic discussion. 

Experts in catering for events and hospitality

For events and hospitality, our expertise and passion is second to none for delivered food and fine dining functions. Our team care about the food we provide. Our products are carefully selected and we use locally sourced, seasonal and Fairtrade products wherever possible. It’s not only our food that is ethically sourced and produced, but the same care is taken with our packaging. Where possible we use only recycled and compostable packaging to minimise our environmental impact. 

We are more than just a one-way interaction, we form real relationships/partnerships with our customers and also recognise that we act as a hub and focal point for many smaller University communities and have a role to play to be part of this.  We will continue to work with our customers and give them the best choice of food and drink on campus. Great Food at Leeds is a University service and any profits that are made are invested back into further improving the service and contribute towards the wider University strategic ambitions. By using us, our customers’ money stays on campus!

Read more about the full catering and cafe offer available at Leeds here. For more details on the £520m campus investment programme, email campusdevelopments@leeds.ac.uk.

Beverly Kenny is Deputy Director for Commercial and Campus Support Services, at the University of Leeds.

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