Liberty Dining Finds New Platforms To Encourage Isolated Students

In spite of the nationwide shutdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Liberty University Dining has enhanced its social media-based platform, focusing on encouraging students, highlighting exceptional employees and providing viewers with at-home recipes.

Social Media Coordinator Tobi Laukaitis said that it was stressful to constantly see talk of the coronavirus in her social media feeds. Laukaitis felt that if she wanted to see lighter content on her feed, then Liberty students probably did, too.

“We asked students what they wanted to see on our social media feeds now that they’re at home,” Laukaitis said. “One of the biggest requests we received was recipe videos that students could make at home. We asked two of our chefs to create some dishes and recorded the process so students can work on their culinary skills. We filmed four so far and plan on releasing one each week.”

Earlier this semester, Liberty Dining launched a “Student Takeover” through Instagram stories. Plans to continue this social media takeover are in progress, which will allow students to discuss how they are staying mentally and physically active, as well as encourage community involvement during this unforeseen time of isolation.

Since food industry employees are considered essential during this pandemic, Liberty Dining’s condensed staff works to ensure that the limited number of students, faculty and staff still on campus are safe as new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state guidelines are being released.

“I sent out our photographer, Roger, out to get portraits of our staff working the frontlines and asked them to share something encouraging for our students,” Laukaitis said. “The feedback was incredible, especially from parents, because I think it reassured them that their students were safe and taken care of. I know our employees miss our students too, and I think it was a good outlet for them, too.”

The Liberty Dining team is putting new social media platforms to the test as well — such as Tik Tok — which Laukaitis said received a surprisingly positive feedback from students. As of Friday, their third post had over 180,000 views and more than 12,000 favorites.

“It surprised us all, but now we feel like we have to keep it up,” Laukaitis said. “If it makes people laugh, then I think it’s worth it. We have fun filming them.”

Unit Marketing Specialist Ryan Wheeler says that when students return to campus, they can expect a big event hosted by Liberty Dining and Sodexo. 

“We were already planning a major event to end the spring semester on, but now that we have even more time to plan,  we want to welcome students back to campus this fall in a big way,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said that starting in the fall semester, students can use swipes in concessions, and students that are on the Freedom Dining PLUS+ plan can expect more Dining Dollars to spend, going from $120 to $150. 

Students on either meal plan will also receive guest passes each semester that can be used on their friends or family, according to Wheeler. 

“Our last bit of news, which we are very excited about, is that we will now have Grubhub on campus,” Wheeler said. “At participating locations this upcoming school year, you can order ahead on the Grubhub app and skip the line! And yes, you can even redeem meal swipes through the Grubhub app as well!” 

Wheeler said they are starting with only a few locations at first before expanding their list of on-campus restaurants on the Grubhub app.

The team at Liberty Dining and Sodexo encourage students to remember that they’re not alone during this time. 

“Take it from a social media manager and stay off social,” Laukaitis said. “Give yourself a mental health break and use this time to do things you enjoy.”

Laukaitis said students can contact them on their social media pages if they have any recommendations or ideas for Liberty Dining’s social media platforms.

Addison Tarr is a News Reporter for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on Twitter @addi_tarr

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