Metro Diner develops new marketing push

Campus dining officials are rolling out a campaign to promote the year-old Metro Diner – a J Street cornerstone they said is falling short of expectations.

GW Campus Dining, which counts two new employees as of Monday, will plaster advertisements in residence halls and take to Twitter and Facebook to market the diner.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard declined to answer questions about how Metro Diner fared financially for the past year, citing a policy not to release sales information.

Director of Campus Support Services Nancy Haaga said she hopes to see more interest in the diner, which is J Street’s largest venue and the only one open daily and late-night.

“It’s important that we are able to serve a significant body of customers out of that venue, because we’ve invested a lot of space in that venue,” Haaga said, adding she wants to publicize offerings like made-to-order omelettes and other new hot bar options, like scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon.

J Street’s first marketing director, Sarah Stevenson, started in August. Three top employees have turned over in recent weeks. Bernadette Thomas became general manager after longtime director Richard Yokely left this summer. The campus dining office also hired Gurmit Chaudhri to fill the retail manager position, vacant since last spring. Haaga said customer service and food presentation without an operational manager has been difficult.

The office also plans to roll out a more rigorous social media campaign this fall, but a year after promising to boost its online presence, the campus dining accounts on Facebook and Twitter attract little attention.

The Facebook page had just one September post as of Sunday evening. The Twitter account has not posted since May.

“We limped through last year,” Haaga said on the office’s communication. “It wasn’t nearly as effective as it can be, or as it should be. Clearly, we have big expectations about how things are going to be improved.”

The diner was the central piece of the J Street overhaul last fall when GW swapped out nine vendors for mainly Sodexo-run eateries.

Last year, Metro Diner was widely criticized for its long wait times, which prompted the University to add a hot bar to the venue this fall. Haaga said the new choices have decreased the wait time.

Haaga said the J Street team is focusing on creating more “monotony breakers” in daily menus, as well as events like a prix fixe surf and turf meal. They are also working with the Center for Student Engagement to bring in traffic to J Street with entertainment and student presentations.

Tim Miller, the director of the Center for Student Engagement, said he is encouraging his team to collaborate with GW’s dining services, adding that the most recent event, the annual Freshman Feast, had a record turnout of more than 900 students.

Bon Mi, which opened this fall, has been well received by customers, Haaga said. Auntie Anne’s Pretzels will open up shop later this month, marking the second major switch since the massive overhaul the year before.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.