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One Key Factor to Successful College Dining Programs

To understand what makes a college and university dining program successful, we should probably take a quick visit to a college campus.

Specifically, let's go to Princeton University, where two psychologists conducted an experiment with the students in the seminary school. Essentially, they were trying to determine what motivates people, what are the driving forces behind our actions, and why we choose one option over another.

They discovered an important tidbit about human nature, and in the process, they also learned an important fact about college students that can be directly related to foodservice.

In their experiment, they asked the entire study group to declare why they joined the seminary school, and they were given two basic answers from which to choose. Did you choose a religious course of study because you wanted to help people, or did you choose it for your own spiritual fulfillment?

Next, they were instructed to write a paper about a biblical topic. Some students were instructed to write about the story of the Good Samaritan, while the other group wrote about any other varying topic in the Bible. Immediately after the report, the students were told they had to go to a building across campus to conduct a presentation on the topic they just wrote about.

Finally, they introduced one final variable in the experiment. Time. Some students were told they had plenty of time to get over to the presentation building, while others were told they were already running behind and needed to get there immediately.

In the process of getting from the writing building to the presentation building, they also introduced the final piece of the puzzle -- a sickly, homeless-looking man who was writhing on the ground, apparently in pain. The question of the experiment, then, is who stopped to help the man, and is there any correlation between the other variables in the experiment? Any guesses?

How about this:

While it might be logical to think that someone who entered the seminary school to help others or someone who had just written about the story of the Good Samaritan would be most likely to stop and help the man in pain, that was not the case at all. In fact, some of those students literally stepped right over the man on the way to the presentation. According to the results of the study, there was no statistical relevance tied to motivation for entering the school or the topic of the paper.

The time allotted to get to the presentation building, on the other hand, did matter. Of the group that was told they were running late, only 10 percent of the students stopped to help the man. Of the group told they had time to spare, 63 percent stopped to help. What this tells us is that time is a bigger contributor to our actions that our motivations, and more important in the context of foodservice, college students will make choices based on the time they have.

This means it's extremely important for college and university foodservice directors to consider these motivating factors. Provide foodservice options for all types of students, from those looking for a good, sit-down meal to those running to a building across campus where they have to give a presentation on the Bible.

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