By Marissa Gugala & Casey Dibari – News Editor & Opinion Editor
Marketing Manager of Chartwells Lusine Baghsarian hosted focus group meetings regarding students’ reception of dining hall staff and its food on Tuesday, March 26 and Thursday, March 28 in the Crow’s Nest of Valentine Dining Hall.
Students were asked to give ratings on a scale of one to five regarding topics such as quality, communication, value, hours of operation, variety, and service.
The focus groups were meant to get honest student feedback whether positive or negative and brainstorm ideas for improvements. For the purposes of keeping the anonymity of the participants, their names will not be used.
One student expressed concerns about meal swipes and the number of guest swipes each student has. Baghsarian said, “The school [not the cafeteria] does all the meal plan programs and sets the price and swipes.”
None of the attendees took issue with the cafeteria’s hours of operation. Of the five attendees, all gave a rating of five in that aspect. Students were also generally satisfied with the communication between cafeteria staff and students.
In regard to variety of food offered by the dining hall, the 1851 late-night dining and Starbucks, attendees gave lower ratings of one and two. The highest rating given for variety was three. A student expressed their desire for Starbucks to provide more options such as their fruit Refreshers. In response, Baghsarian said, “This Starbucks here, [is] not an official franchise. We are what is called a ‘we proudly brew’…We are very limited on the type of Starbucks we can offer because we are a proudly brewed location.”
Multiple students expressed that they did “…not want to only have fried food as an option at night.” Students were concerned that the food was not fresh. One student said, “I find myself eating, more times than not, for dinner an English muffin or cereal because the [food] at the salad station is soggy or things are out all day long…” Another student suggested the cafeteria add a variety of cooked vegetables to the menu more frequently.
The general standard the cafeteria must follow has to offer students a carb, a vegetable and a protein every day. The cafeteria strives to provide students multiple vegetable options to choose from as well as different types of entrees such as pork and stir-fry.
Baghsarian informed the groups that they are now able to use dining dollars on the Boost app. She also said, “You can plan out your menu a week in advance. The website shows the menu a week ahead.” The cafeteria’s menu is online at http://www.dineoncampus.com/lasell.
Another issue raised focused on students not being allowed to take food out of the cafeteria. Baghsarian explained, “It is a matter of some people are abusing [meal swipes]. When we set the price per meal swipe, it is intended for students to come in and eat. What some students do is they eat, then they add another pile of food into their cups and they walk out. It is almost like they are getting two meals.”
She explained that from a business perspective, they need to manage their costs. “If every student ate and then filled their plates and cups a second time and walked out, we wouldn’t be here.” Baghsarian also noted these types of restrictions are common across college campuses.
One student added to the conversation saying, “I think [students] see it as, we pay all this money for our dining food service and if we are hungry or want a late-night snack and we do not want to go out in the cold, so this is what we do.” This student also suggested that the reason why students shouldn’t take food out of the cafeteria be presented in a more positive way, so students may have more of an understanding of the rule.
However, some students do not feel like much has changed since the discussion. One student said, “I feel like there have been so many discussions about the dining hall and the issues we’ve had, but there’s been no change to me.” The student added on, “I wasn’t at those discussions though, so I don’t know what the turnout was, so maybe nobody said anything… I hope that this discussion brought up what we’ve been saying since last year about the quality of food here.”
Another student pointed out that they hoped to start next year, not only would the variety of food change, but they would start giving those with allergies more food options. “Sometimes I wait for weeks for there to be any kind of gluten-free dessert… it’s not the most important issue of the dining hall, but it would be nice to have that fridge stocked more regularly.”
The cafeteria is continuously gathering opinions and trying to implement changes that better cater to students.