ARAMARK and Dining Services announced changes yesterday to dining on campus. Going into effect on Monday, Douglass Dining Center will be $7 in addition to meal plan discounts for All-You-Care-To-Eat.

Other short-term projects to be implemented include better organizing Meliora Express, providing more ‘grab and go’ options, including a kosher deli in the Hillside Cafe and bringing more options to Douglass Dining Center.

As a result of increased concerns from students, members of ARAMARK and administration met to discuss the new changes proposed by the dining consultant. “There was a general recognition that there are legitimate problems that need to be worked on,” Dean of The College William Green said of the meeting. “I think [ARAMARK and Dining Services] are trying to be constructive and I hope that their proposals work.”

President Thomas Jackson, who was also at the meeting, addressed some of the problems he saw in dining. “[I] thought the student concerns were serious, and the issues of ‘community’ and intermingling of classes also important,” Jackson said. “I am pleased to see that these issues are being addressed.”

Students have complained of a lack of variety in the food, underclassmen dominating Douglass, and long lines.

“Early on I was hearing a lot about the lines and the wait time,” Dean of Students Jody Asbury said.

Bingaman recognizes the trade-off in quality for longer wait times. “We took the retail on campus, the dry old burger on a shoe, and created a have-it-your-way,” he said. “But it created longer lines. Students are willing to wait but can’t always.”

The All-You-Care-To-Eat in Douglass has also been perceived as less variety for a higher price, which many upperclassmen are not willing to pay.

“They’re missing the Mexican stuff in Douglass,” Asbury said. ” I haven’t heard that freshman don’t want All-You-Care-To-Eat but I’ve heard upperclassmen don’t want it for lunch.”

Dining Services, though, is putting in concerted effort to change the minds of students and bring in changes which will improve wait time and overall smoothness in the dining facilities. In the Pit, the Meliora Express and possibly other locations, there will be more ‘fast food’ options for students running low on time.

“We understand Monday through Friday students don’t have time,” Bingaman said. “We’re going to bring in more traditional fast food options. This will be at peak times only. It’s not going to be a fresh burger from the grill, but it will be there for students that don’t have time to wait in line.”

Douglass is the main focus of change right now. “We’re lowering the door prices, moving the cashiers back out to the door,” Director of Purchasing Jack Noon said. “We’re going to allow them to take serving stuff into the dining area and hopefully increase the variety and raise the service speed.”

Douglass will feature a Produce Market, basically an enhanced salad bar with soups, desserts and waffles. Dining also plans on bringing back the Cranberry Farms, Pan Geos Asian and Mexican into Douglass on a rotating basis.

Other changes include a kosher deli option in Hillside Caf, better line separation in the Meliora Express and the fee waived for students changing their meal plans between now and Sept. 27.

Dining Services is looking into a new venue location for the future as well, and are currently examining options on campus.

“Possibly second semester we will be adding a point of sale, some sort of venue to take the heat off the Common Ground Caf and the Pit,” Bingaman said.

Bingaman feels ARAMARK and Dining Services have been successful with the new changes in certain aspects.

“We don’t have a quality issue. The economics and variety also have been addressed and those were the two big burning points,” he said. Asbury agreed students were happy with the food quality.

“I’ve heard great things about Hillside, I’ve heard great things about Danforth at dinner,” she said. “People like the quality of the food.”

In an attempt to dispel the idea that purchasing a meal plan all four years disadvantages students, Bingaman noted the long-term benefits of buying in to plans.

“We maintain the whole idea of where the program is going in the future and keeping it a value. Before [the meal plan] wasn’t a perceived value. It’s a super value if you’re in the right meal plan,” Bingaman said. “We encourage students to be a part of the meal plan. Our philosophy is if everyone’s a member, it helps maintain the value of the program.”

Dining Services feels the new plan structure provides a level of flexibility not previously present. “I do believe the fact that we no longer hold people to block plans and have a full semester to utilize all meals on a plan provides a good amount of flexibility,” Noon said.

Problems were admitted in communicating to students about the new options and students being given little or no time to understand or choose a new meal plan.

“The ongoing challenge is communicating to the student body. We did not do as good a job as we could have last spring,” Noon said.

Focus groups and committees are in the works, and a reevaluation is in progress, but Bingaman was confident there is a method to the seemingly complex system.

“The Club Plan is going to be evaluated, it’s ongoing as part of this process,” Bingaman said. “We’re going to work on communication. Is the plan complicated? Yes. It’s complicated by design. The plan is designed so whether you’re a freshman, sophomore junior or senior there’s enough variety to pick a plan that is best to meet your needs.”

A main stress is on the ongoing process of change for Dining Services.

“In reality a lot of these things are things they are always trying to improve – it’s always an ongoing process,” Noon said.

“The fundamental strategy I expect will be valid. You can always improve on a plan as you get more and more input.”

Additional reporting by Chadwick Schnee.Linden can be reached at klinden@campustimes.org.



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