This article originally appeared in The Flat Hat
Dining Services has revamped its offers over the year, and the additions have been met with an array of responses as diverse as the changes themselves.
One such change includes offering new vegetarian options. Saurabh Dugar ’15, a vegetarian, recalls how difficult it was to find good non-meat options on the weekends last year. Now, he appreciates how he can always find a vegetarian option at various stations around the Commons Dining Hall.
“Even if they don’t have veggie food up front, if you ask them, they’ll make it for you,” Dugar said.
Additionally, the recent addition of Greenberry’s Coffee Co., which opened in the Earl Gregg Swem Library in early October, shifted the atmosphere of the Mews Cafe. The layout differs from Starbucks, which formerly occupied the cafe by providing additional seating that is more conducive to studying. Although Greenberry’s provides more open seating, it lacks the big, padded chairs Starbucks had.
“It’s much sleeker looking, which is really great,” Mattie Hyler ’14 said. “I like how it looks, [but] I miss the comfy chairs a lot.”
Even though the atmosphere of the venue has changed, Hyler still enjoys the coffee that Greenberry’s services. The same baristas who worked at Starbucks man the coffee machines, and the hot beverages still provide a much needed caffeine boost to students weary from studying for exams.
“I actually have a Greenberry’s near me where I live and I love it there, so, for me, it wasn’t a big change,” Sarah Kleinknecht ’15 said. “I think there’s more variety now, like smoothies [that] we couldn’t get before.”
Not all share the same view. Pearl Bunchuin ’14, has indulged in both Starbucks and Greenberry’s, and prefers Starbucks.
“I like Starbucks better, I used to work at a Starbucks, so I liked the [familiarity],” Pearl Bunchuin ’14 said, “I like that it runs smoother now. It [still] doesn’t run very smooth[ly], but [it’s] better than it used to be… When it was closed for a long time, it was really inconvenient to have to walk all the way to the Grind or Einstein’s.”
In addition to the construction of a new coffee place, Dining Services has also introduced a change in the way students can voice their opinions. The “Text ‘n’ Tell” system allows students to text in requests to the Commons, Sadler RFoC and the Marketplace. Dining Services even displays the comments so that students can observe the suggestions of their peers.
“[“Text N Tell”] really gives them the ability to text their feedback right at their table,” Dining Marketing Manager Faren Alston said. “We really have a big emphasis on getting student feedback so that we can ensure that our dining program is meeting the needs of our customers.”
Students found the “Text ‘n’ Tell” screens entertaining during meal times.
“There’s a screen in Sadler Center that has [the comments] up,” Austen Brower ’14 said. “I like that because I think it’s hilarious. Some people say some pretty amusing things.”
Although some students may find select posts entertaining, Dining Services takes them very seriously. Two initiatives sparked by student feedback and surveys were the creation of the wok station in the Commons and the availability of Einstein Bros. Bagels in the Sadler Center. Brower thinks it is crucial for Dining Services to be in tune with the desires of its customers.
“We’re paying upwards of $10 per meal, so we should have some type of say,” Brower said. “Communication is always good, especially when they answer and actually affect their processes.”
Although students have differing opinions on the changes Dining Services has made this year, the responses, overall, have been positive. Students with health concerns can find more suitable options, and those who have an issue now have a way to voice it with the confidence that they will be heard.
Alston elaborated on College Dining Services’ efforts to listen to student feedback.
“We have a large number of students here with special dietary needs, whether it be vegan, vegetarian, a gluten intolerance or a nut allergy,” Alston said in an email. “We have met with over 150 students this semester alone to discuss their special dietary concerns. … As a direct result of student comment cards, emails and “Text ‘n’ Tell,” [we have] converted the Java City in the Commons lobby into the [College] Dining Student Advocacy Office, so students with questions, comments or concerns will always be able to talk with someone face-to-face."