The River Campus Dining Committee met for the first time this year on Sept. 16, and Resident District Manager Tim MacTurk highlighted the busy summer Dining Services had.
Quality was a central theme of the meeting and was highlighted in the facility upgrades, as were changes in human resources and operational standards. At the meeting, transparency and quality of service in Danforth Dining Center, Douglass Dining Center and the Pit were emphasized as well.

‘We wanted to bring the food out in front of everybody,” MacTurk said.

MacTurk noted the new salad bar in the Pit and the Mongolian Barbeque in Danforth.
The emphasis on quality of service was strong throughout the summer. Trainers from outside schools were brought in to work on defining universal standards that all workers will follow.

MacTurk noted that the hourly staff returned a week before Freshman Orientation started in order to be better prepared at their work stations.

Other improvements included increasing communications between dining management and students. Going into the summer, Marketing Manager of Dining Services Dave Feist was concerned that dining management was unable to get a sufficient read of students’ opinions on the dining plan last year.

Feist hoped his creation of a student review panel would act as a liaison between students and management and facilitate better communications both ways highlighting everyday student concerns.

Sustainability initiatives were also discussed during the meeting. Connections Cafe Manager Blythe Bower noted the increased effort to purchase local foods. She mentioned that 18 percent of food is purchased locally, as opposed to just 1 percent in 2004.

Bower acknowledged that it will become increasingly difficult to purchase local food as the school year goes on due to the poor winter harvest season in Western New York. Dining Services had supported regional businesses by purchasing local food.

‘Park Avenue Bakery, which helps supply Connections, has seen their business almost double since they started their agreement with UR,” Bower said.

MacTurk and Feist also addressed issues concerning discontent with the new meal plan system. They said it was too early to tell whether the dining plan was effective or not, but an October Student Satisfaction Survey would give them a better idea of students’ perception of the meal plan. Other criteria, such as the number of Club Meals left at the end of the semester, will be evaluated to determine the meal plan’s effectiveness.

MacTurk did note, however, that students seemed to be pleased with the increase in the Declining balance because of the popularity of Starbucks and Connections, which do not accept Club Meals. He also said that because improvements in the quality of service were addressed, there may be more value in a Club Meal, which may negate some discontent over the amount of Clubs in meal plans. MacTurk and Feist emphasized that they were receptive to student feedback but would rather have students voice concerns through the Students’ Association.

‘We encourage students to go through the SA for such a big issue,” MacTurk said. ‘It is much easier to deal with one student body voicing all the concerns.”

The Dining Committee said they would continue to work with the SA Projects and Services Committee to assess student feedback. A roundtable discussion at the end of the meeting provided students a forum to voice questions and concerns regarding the summer projects of the Dining Committee.

A recurring concern was the flow of traffic in Douglass and Wilson Commons, something that administrators said they would look into further. An increase in the amount of groceries available, both at the Corner Store and a potential new dining location near Riverview apartments, was a shared concern, as well as one that MacTurk said would have to be addressed in a long-term plan.

Willis is a member of the class of 2011.

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