The residential meal experience has certain unique characteristics that can be attributed to both the socio-demographic profile of the student and the type of food service provided. These characteristics result in specific expectations that should be satisfied to meet the organisational and financial goals of the service provider and the University. The main challenges include addressing cultural diversity of captive consumers and providing for the specific needs of Generation Y. Globally there is an increased effort to determine the level of satisfaction of students with their meal experiences, in order to improve the food service provided. Limited research within the unique multi-cultural South African context; the changing demographic profile of Pretoria University students since 1996, and the increase in negative media reports regarding foodservice provided on campus motivated the urgent need for an investigation.
The aim of this study was to describe the satisfaction of the University of Pretoria‟s residential students regarding their meal experience in terms of the food itself, the service and the ambience, in order to provide the University‟s Department of Residence Affairs and Accommodation with recommendations to improve the meal experience offered by taking into account the demographic profile of students.
To obtain the relevant data to meet the stated aim, focus group discussions in which probing questions were asked of the participants were conducted in order to develop a questionnaire. Self-administered questionnaires were issued to a stratified random sample of 878 respondents from 22 responding residences. Data analysis involved descriptive statistics and the chi-square test. - vi -
Results indicated that most respondents were satisfied with the meal experience. Respondents were most satisfied with the ambience and least satisfied with the food. Respondents were most satisfied with the sensory and portion size attributes, but least satisfied with the price attributes of the food. Respondents were most satisfied with the tangible and empathy attributes of the service and most satisfied with the cleanliness and neatness attributes of the ambience. Food was ranked as most important followed by service and ambience. Freshness, nutritional value and cost (value for money) were ranked the most important attributes of food. Operating hours and cleanliness (neatness) were ranked most important for service and ambience respectively.
The food dimension was identified as a priority for improvement, specifically with respect to: the price of both booked meals and commercial items, regular incorporation of new menu items, healthy/nutritious food and variety of fruit and vegetables provided. Apart from the food attributes the availability of stock at item sales and the operating hours in general, were identified as attributes of the service requiring improvement. In addition, statistically significant relationships were found between satisfaction and specific profile characteristics such as ethnic group, gender and the number of years using a specific dining hall. The results of the open-ended question confirmed the findings of the rest of the questionnaire.
This study has contributed to the limited literature on student satisfaction regarding their meal experiences at residential dining halls. Valuable recommendations for improvement of the residential meal experience were provided.
Dissertation (MConsumer Science)--University of Pretoria, 2014.