Dine With The Director Allows Students To Voice Complaints, Ideas To Dining Services

Date: 
Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

On Wednesday, February 15, roughly a dozen students joined with several staff members, including the Marketing Manager for Illinois Tech Dining Services, Eddie Skidmore, for a buffet luncheon in the Pritzker Club in the McCormick Tribune Campus Center to discuss the school’s dining options and services. The luncheon included a great selection of grilled chicken and ham sandwiches, vegetarian wraps, broccoli cheddar soup, salad with balsamic vinaigrette, fresh fruit, and an assortment of cookies and sodas. During the meal, numerous suggestions, questions, and complaints arose from both the faculty and students, varying in topic from nutrition labeling and non-standard items offered at locations, to an open discussion regarding the dining system in general or any topic of interest to the students.

The students present helped to represent a wide variety of situations many students find themselves in while on campus. This included student communities such as athletes, commuters, vegans, vegetarians, and those with dietary restrictions from food that contains dairy or gluten. Many of the questions presented to the staff members were directly aimed at the Commons, whose “all you care to eat” buffet-style dining has led to unique problems for students in the past few months. This included problems with the food labels being incorrect, missing, or contradictory and certain products being unavailable or low in supply, such as entrée dishes and gluten free items. To these comments, the staff members took note of specific examples and assured that they would monitor the locations in question to ensure everything was properly labeled or in ample supply for the night.

In addition to those concerns, the students present at the luncheon also voiced their opinions regarding the hours of operation and meal plans for the Commons. Many, including those students participating in athletics, believed the opening and closing times for dinner in the Commons to be too early. This problem was made especially clear by the athletes present, many of whom wait until after practice to eat dinner, opting for a light snack beforehand. By the time practice ends, however, they find themselves unable to eat at the Commons due to it being past closing time or because they used their dinner meal for the day on the light snack they had before practice.  For these problems, many of the students concluded that the best option was to extend or shift the hours of operation for dinner at the Commons by at least an hour and permit multiple meal swipes in a single meal time.

By this point in the conversation, many of the questions and comments began to shift towards the other popular dining locations and options on campus such as the Residential Express at the Commons, Center Court and Talon’s. The two most popular questions asked by students regarded the hours of operation for some of these locations, such as Center Court with its shortened hours on Thursday and Friday, and the lack of nutritional information at any of these locations when compared to the Commons. To these questions, the staff responded by stating that they were working on having the menus at these locations analyzed to obtain accurate nutritional information. In addition to this, they also explained that the hours at certain locations were shortened to encourage dining at other location on specific days. This is the reason why Center Court closes early on Thursday and Friday, since the Bog is open on those nights.

By the end of the hour-long conversation, many of the students were satisfied with the answers they had received from the staff and the staff were equally pleased at the amount of feedback they had received to better improve the dining services on campus. As a token of their gratitude, all participating students were given vouchers for free food at either Center Court or Global Grounds and could take as much of the left-over buffet items as they wished. It therefore shouldn’t have come as a surprise that several of the students took the dining staff at their word and helped themselves to all the brie cheese in the ham and brie sandwiches offered at the luncheon. It just goes to show you, when it comes to free food, college students aren’t afraid to go for the pricey stuff.