Google Analytics Tracking Code

Friday, August 15, 2014

When 74 is Greater Than 76

Res Life staff dining in Skyline Room - Now accepting Bonus Bucks!
Four years ago Trinity University set out to re-haul its somewhat stale dining program. This week, the University finally made a list of top dining programs in the country. Trinity was named among the top 75 programs by The Daily Meal. Over 2,000 dining programs were reviewed. That puts us in the top 4%. I have eaten at a lot of dining halls around the country and I sincerely believe we deserve to be in the top tier.

In reviewing our program, students, faculty, and staff were interviewed and surveyed. Studies of campus foot traffic and usage patterns were conducted. The administration, faculty, and students were routinely updated. The following values were identified to under-gird all dining -related initiatives: quality, variety, value, health, and sustainability. Secondary values include convenience and presentation. Student government embraced the changes and voted in favor. Among the initiatives:

- Changing from an ala carte to all-you-care-to-eat format in the main dining area, Mabee Hall. This included a renovation and significant menu changes.
- Relocation of the POD convenience store and grill from the Coates Center to Mabee Hall.
- Installation of an Einstein's Brothers Bagel Shop in the Coates Center.
- Addition of local favorite, Taco Taco to the Coates Commons.
- Renovation of the swanky Skyline Room and a change to a bistro-style menu. Students will be able to use their Bonus Bucks now.

More changes are planned:
- The upper-campus POD in the Center for Sciences and Innovation will open this August.
- The Commons is tentatively scheduled for a minor renovation during winter break, to include a new, healthier option sandwich and salad station.
- The Skyline menu will be reviewed and updated.

This all matters a great deal to me because I believe that students and employees deserve healthy and tasty options on campus. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for - institutionally and on a meal-by-meal basis.

So beating out Muhlenburg and 1,925 other schools is a great start. But students still have issues, primarily related to our main dining program in Mabee. I met with the Residential Life student staff this week and we discussed what they like and dislike. Perhaps the best comment was that despite the variety, it doesn't taste like there is a big difference between the offerings. That is something we can address.

Indeed, some of our students often complain in broad terms about dining, yet are unwilling to engage the dining staff when they have specific issues. They say it is awkward to criticize people to their face (which is how I wish some felt around me). They don't want to offend. But they should. ARAMARK is dying for specific and immediate feedback.

Our Student Government Association has been missing-in-action in developing channels for offering systematic and consistent feedback. They need a seat at the table, so to speak, but they aren't even asking for a reservation.

A quick review of the top 75 schools shows that the best programs are the ones that are responsive to student feedback, innovate their menus and programs, and support health and sustainability.

So I challenge our dining staff and our students, and especially SGA. Let's roll up our sleeves and put our napkins on our laps. Let's cull through the top national programs and identify what we like and what is attainable. Then we can look at moving up higher on the list - not to rank better - but to be better.

2 comments:

Micaela Hoffman said...

Hi Dean Tuttle!

I tried to leave feedback about the dining hall online but it was a really long survey! Could we have printed paper slips for suggestions at the front of the dining hall when we enter? All I wanted was some corn tortillas (gluten free) and a new salad dressing (rasberry!!) :)

Thanks!

-Mikki

David Tuttle said...

Mikki,

That is an annual corporate survey and it is horrendous. There are comment cards and there is info re an app on many tables to which you can offer your reasonable suggestions. Or tell a manager.