University News

Focus groups suggest Dining Services improvements

Student feedback shows Dining Services should consider social aspects of campus eateries

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 20, 2014

Brown Dining Services and the outside firm Envision Strategies held focus groups last week as part of ongoing efforts to get student feedback on dining experiences, said Richard Bova, senior associate dean of residential life and dining services. 

The focus groups drew around 30 students and aimed to “take a comprehensive look at Dining Services (with) respect to services for students, faculty and staff,” Bova said.

Dining Services conducted a separate study on the Sharpe Refectory in conjunction with Envision Strategies last year, Bova said. The study found students enjoyed their eating experiences but thought dining halls could be improved as social spaces, Bova said.

These results “led us to believe studying the whole entire dining operation would make the most sense” in terms of determining how students eat and utilize the facilities, Bova said.

For the focus groups, Dining Services reached out to students from a variety of circumstances and groups, including members of the Undergraduate Council of Students and Residential Council, students on and off meal plan and students who live on and off campus, Bova said, adding that a survey will be sent to the entire Brown community in the upcoming weeks to gather more data.

Jana Foxe ’16 attended the focus group for students who live on campus but are off meal plan. She said the staff members at the focus group were particularly interested in knowing what students want to see and asked questions about what kinds of dining spaces and meal plans would be appealing.

“We could just talk at them about what we thought was right and what was wrong,” she said, adding that she took the opportunity to talk “quite a bit about the need for better kitchens in dormitories.”

Other students off meal plan voiced concern over the cost of  eating at the Ratty and frustration over not having access to the Ratty or the Verney-Woolley Dining Hall as social spaces, Foxe said.

Adam Horowitz ’16, who attended the same focus group, said he shared the concerns about the dining halls’ lack of vegan food options. Though he tried in the past to bring up this issue, “Dining Services kind of stonewalled me — they wouldn’t give me the time of day,” he said.

“It’s definitely a great idea to listen to what students have to say before they jump into anything,” Horowitz said.

The focus groups will help determine “what our next generation of feeding students will look like,” Bova said.

A final review will likely be ready early in the fall semester, Bova said. The focus groups were “hugely helpful, hugely informative and will lead to the product that is the next step in our generation of Brown Dining Services with students,” he said.

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  1. Shriram Krishnamurthi says:

    I wonder if they’ll ask anyone other than students. Others too have to suffer through the options and lack thereof with dining services — vegetarians get crap and vegans get nothing.

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