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Gourmet Dining Update: The University Reacts to the New Dining Services So Far

The 2015-2016 academic year featured the debut of Gourmet Dining Services, the University’s new food provider.

In spring of 2015, the University hosted a preview of the services, which featured samples of the various food stations available to students and faculty. Although the preview received much fanfare, Gourmet Dining has received mixed reviews since its launch.

One faculty member who has dined in the dining hall, the student center and other outlets on campus said, “It’s not that the new service is doing a bad job but they advertised themselves as an absolute step above Aramark. Personally I see almost no difference between the two.”

That same faculty member recalled, “Just the other day I walked into the student center at 10:15 am and thought I would get a little breakfast. The line to Jersey Mike’s was almost to the cash register. So I saw that there were five freshly baked pizzas at the pizza station,” he said. “When I asked the man there if I could just grab a quick slice he refused to give me one and told me to wait until 11 am.”

He added, “Why those pizzas were made at 10:15 and had to sit on that counter for 45 minutes before they could be sold might be a symptom of the problem.”

Recently, Gourmet Dining has faced much criticism due to the fact that the transitions between breakfast, lunch, and dinner take a considerable amount of time, and hungry students are left waiting around until they are allowed to eat.

“Gourmet Dining has been a huge let down. Honestly, the food tasting preview conducted the spring semester of 2015 was incredibly misleading. I feel that there aren’t many fresh, and healthy options that are available at most times of the day. There are many times when I go to the dining hall and see numerous empty sections which forces me to select unhealthy options constantly,” said Ava McClendon, a sophomore art student.

Dining Hall 2“I even notice skin problems I have as a result of that action. Sometimes unhealthy, and stale foods are all I have to eat since there aren’t many other beneficial options elsewhere standing as an inconvenience to my life,” McClendon added.

In response to this criticism, Amy Orndorf, dietician for Gourmet Dining services, said that they do their best to fit the needs of every student on campus.

“Overall, I think that the majority of students are receiving Gourmet Dining very well,” said  Orndorf. “We do try to accommodate as many people as we can within the realm of what we can do. We are always open to hear criticisms and we try to improve every day.”

Many students noted that they do not frequently eat at the student center, because everything is not covered by a meal swipe, so they must eat there frugally.

At the dining hall, many accommodations are made for students, and there are vegan options available for every meal.

“While the food itself is tolerable, there are many issues with the service that are unacceptable, the biggest of which is the transition period between meals,” said a student that wished to remain anonymous. “On a campus where none of the underclassmen dorms are equipped with kitchens and no more than three microwaves, it is completely inappropriate that there are two periods of the day where there is no food out for an hour.

She added, “While a transition period between meals is necessary, there is no reason for that transition period to be an hour long when the food is already made. It’s simply a matter of bringing out the platters. This results in a wasted meal swipe, which is much more expensive than in previous years, and students leaving hungry and unsatisfied.”

Steven Black, Gourmet Dining’s Resident Dining Director for the Dining Hall, said that although there have been some criticisms, he feels that most students receive the food very well.

“I think the majority of students feel that our services are above average, but we really want to get it to one hundred percent,” said Black. “We really work hard to correct our criticisms. We are definitely willing to set up meetings with students who want to discuss our services, and we are always open to making certain accommodations for students.”

Alexis Mason, a sophomore psychology student, said that the food is tolerable, but a negative experience with employees made her think negatively of the services as a whole.

“Basically I think gourmet dining isn’t that bad. The food they serve is obviously prepared well, somethings do seem a bit undercooked cause they have to rush to feed so many people. There is a bit of a scheduling problem because there has to be food prep time and I don’t work in a food place like that so I don’t know the exact procedure, however I feel like having 1-2 hours between every meal, especially breakfast and lunch in the middle of the day, is kind of ridiculous,” said Mason.

Mason added, “The only problem I’ve had is the fact that I got yelled at one time for taking food from an open platter that was already put out on the warmer plates. I was yelled at because although the food was out already, we aren’t allowed to technically eat until 4 p.m. and it was 3:50 p.m. It was embarrassing and disrespectful and when I spoke to the head of gourmet dining about how I felt like a dog being told to sit and look at my food but not eat it, he basically said ‘oh that’s terrible. Sorry for your inconvenience’”

Despite these criticisms, Gourmet Dining Services is taking every necessary step to rectify these complaints, and perhaps the 2016-2017 academic year will be more suitable for the needs of the students.

Photo taken by Kiera Lanni

photo taken by Kiera Lanni