Dining Services Undergoes Changes

By Abby Wargo

Editor-in-Chief

A new school year has begun, and Dining Services is ready to get cooking with a plate full of changes to spice up the ordinary.

“Our focus is the students and what they want. We’re here to make sure we run the best program we can and make sure they have a program that speaks to their needs. We try to listen as best we can,” said Prince Johnson, interim director of Dining Services.

“It’s not about us, you guys have to eat here for four years, we want to make sure that you’re happy about what you’re getting,” he said.

The dining hall has rolled out all-new meal plans for the 2018-19 school year. The biggest change in the plans is that there is no more meal exchange restrictions. This means that meal plans match dining dollars dollar-for-dollar and that there is no more limit on when you can use a meal exchange.

The old meal plans required you to wait until 8:30 p.m. to use a meal exchange, and exchanges could only be used for food totaling $5.50 or $8.50, depending on the plan.

Additionally, more dining dollars were added to each plan. The amount varies based on the plans. The 150 block has $600 dining dollars, unlimited and 180 block have $500, the 14 meal and 220 block have $400, and the 19 meal and 250 block have $300. Commuter plans do not come with dining dollars.

The only caveat to increasing dining dollars is that they don’t roll over to the following semester.

The meal plan changes are a direct result of the town hall discussions Dining Services hosted last semester, Johnson said.

Dining Services is also working to bring cable back to the TV’s in the dining hall. Johnson said he hopes to at least get three TV’s’ cable back; two in the dining hall and one on the first floor of Hodson Hall.

“I’m not sure why they went away, but we’re working with [Office of Information and Technology] to get that back on,” Johnson said.

Student input from twice-annual surveys sent by Dining Services was also considered, and changes have been implemented in direct response to that feedback.

“Some of the comments that we’ve gotten said that the weekend [food] quality needs to be built up some, so that’s one of my focuses,” Johnson said. “We’re working towards having a chef here every single weekend; we have cooks here, but we’re going to try to have a chef too.”

The dining hall only serves about 3-600 people each weekend, which is a reason why the quality could be lacking, said Johnson. Not as many stations are open and fully operational due to the decreased flow of traffic.

“We still have to make sure that your experience meets the level of what you’d expect,” he said. “We don’t expect to be perfect, but we’re going to strive to get there.”

In addition to everyday changes, Dining Services staff has planned special events throughout the semester as “monotony breakers.”

On Sept. 17, the dining hall served Latinx dishes in honor of Latinx Heritage Month. On Oct. 5, food trucks will line the Cater Walk for “Food Truck Friday.” German fare such as hot soft pretzels will be served on Oct. 27 for the dining hall’s version of Oktoberfest. Students can experience a “Taste of Taiwan” during a special dinner on Oct. 13. On Oct. 31, the dining hall will host a Halloween dinner.

Special surprises, like sundae bars or do-it-yourself garbage fries, are also in the rotation.

“It’s what we call pop-ups, we do them as unannounced monotony breakers. We’re doing them as a sort of, “Hey, we’re doing this for an hour,”” Executive Chef David McKenty said.

Teaching Kitchen, a once-per-month crash course in cooking run by McKenty, will be returning on Sept. 20. This month, Chef McKenty will be teaching participants how to reduce protein intake by reducing the ounces of meat protein eaten. It is put on in partnership with the Culinary Institute of America.

“We’re going to take a classic pork chop, which is about eight ounces, and teach people how to make the same size plate, but with three to four ounces of pork on it — and other things — in a healthy way,” McKenty said.

Although Martha’s Kitchen, Create, and Java George were potential renovation projects, besides installing new flooring and other small refreshes, such as changing the menus and adding more offerings like milkshakes, no changes will be made.

All these changes needed a better way to reach students. In order to properly relay dining information to students and to tell the dining story, Dining Services took on a marketing intern to manage their social media. Senior Dylan Grimes has worked to bolster its social media presence and get more likes on its Facebook page, something Johnson hopes to accomplish.

Overall, Johnson is satisfied with the dining hall’s performance thus far this semester.

“We believe we do a great job. Are there areas we can improve? Always, and we want all the feedback we can get on ways we can improve,” Johnson said.

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