We spoke to Patti Girardi ahead of her presentation at the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit.
Patti serves as Vice President, Marketing for Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services, a division of Compass Group North America. In this role, Patti leads the development and implementation of all marketing strategies, initiatives and campaigns. Patti previously served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Fox Cable Networks, overseeing all affiliate activities for cable networks across the Western U.S. Patti began her marketing career with Cox Communications and advanced within field and corporate positions including acting Vice President of Marketing for Cox New Orleans; Director of Web Marketing & E-Commerce; and Brand Manager for multiple Cox product lines. Patti graduated valedictorian from Trinity College (Hartford, CT) with a B.A. in Economics and holds an M.B.A. from Harvard University.
Innovation Enterprise: Hi Patti, great to talk to you about your work at Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services:
Patti: I appreciate this opportunity to speak on behalf of Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services, the contract foodservice division of Compass Group North America that serves the higher education market. Compass Group North America is Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services’ parent company.
Chartwells is a recognized leader in foodservice management, hospitality and award-winning guest service with 260 college and university clients across the United States.
How would you define digital strategy?
For Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services, a digital strategy for a company in the contract foodservice industry is defined as a plan for communicating essential information clearly and easily to those in need of the information via user-friendly technology.
A digital strategy should include a constant assessment of digital services, opportunities, trends, design aspects, and accessibility of information across technology platforms.
A digital strategy must also complement the core business, support all stakeholder goals, maximize sales, and provide options that enhance the guest experience.
How have you changed the way that Chartwells approaches its digital strategy?
Chartwells is paying close attention to Generation Z, education’s current and future university attendees and the consumers who are dining on campus.
Digital technology and social media have been integrated into the lives of Generation Z at a very young age and are a natural part of their daily lives.
Chartwells understands these young adults are empowered by the use of technology, the latest smart devices, and various social media to engage each other, learn, and stay informed at all times.
Chartwells’ digital strategy currently utilizes a minimum of five web and mobile device capable technology platforms to provide students with information they want and use to stay connected. Chartwells’ digital platforms include websites, multiple information apps, in-house information and feedback kiosks, digital signage, and popular social media options.
Chartwells’ digital online presence helps differentiate its services, shows value, enables consumer engagement, promotes awareness, increases loyalty and can also drive same store sales.
As a predominantly b2b business, how does Chartwells approach to social media differ from more b2c companies?
Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services is actually a B2B and B2C company.
With over 260 college and university partners across the U.S., Chartwells uses social media marketing to promote messaging about campus dining to help increase student recruitment and retention efforts that support client partnerships.
To our campus partners, Chartwells also provides social media guidance and training, content sharing techniques, and the incorporation of guest feedback vehicles. Chartwells uses social media marketing tailored for each campus, as each foodservice operation is customized with unique dining concepts and changing menu cycles.
To our student consumers, one milestone Chartwells is proud of is the successful development and implementation of a proprietary online ingredient filtering and nutrition information application. Using the app, students with food allergies or preferences can filter out certain ingredients for foods served on the menu that day. Menu items that do not contain the specified ingredients are displayed, in addition to calories and other nutrition information students can use.
What do you believe are the key ingredients for a successful digital strategy?
A successful digital strategy should achieve or advance communication goals, provide new opportunities for financial growth, and deliver a useful, desired service for stakeholders and consumers. Having an extensive understanding of all digital disciplines including web development, analytics, trends, opportunities and design are essential for building a successful digital strategy. As Chartwells understands that consumers use social media to express concerns that can influence opinions and buying habits, having a successful crisis and reputation management action plan in place is a necessity.
How has Chartwells utilized a content strategy through digital means?
A large part of Chartwells’ content is student-driven.
Chartwells also recognizes that online content that positively aligns with the brand is important for showing real value to current and potential client partners, students and parents.
Using campus-specific technology platforms, Chartwells' teams at each account create value for clients and students by providing relevant and engaging content specifically tailored to each campus.
Chartwells also uses corporate social media pages and various platforms to promote and recognize Chartwells’ college and university partners, brand and associates on a global level.
Content may be consistent across accounts using each digital platform, but there is flexibility based on student needs.