This article was originally written for the Hilltop Views.
Since Bon Appétit was chosen to manage St. Edward’s dining hall in the
summer of 2007, there have been continual efforts to improve dining
services on campus. Recently, the St. Edward’s community had another
chance to voice opinions as Bon Appétit took further steps toward the betterment of the dining hall.
On January 19-21, Bon Appétit offered an opportunity for students,
faculty and staff to participate in on-line surveys on their current and future services. In addition, they asked members of the campus community to sign up for focus groups, and over the next few days, met
with those groups. Mike Stone, Director of Auxiliary Services at St.
Edward’s, explained that “the purpose of this research is to assess
what’s good with dining services” and what sort of opportunities there
are for improvement.
Michael Smith, General Manager of Bon Appétit, finds the feedback very
informative and helpful. He mentions though that those who responded
in the polls, surveys, and focus groups had mixed views. “Those who
have been educated about Bon Appétit and our philosophy where very
helpful in the discussion groups, [but] those who came just to complain do not know much about us and our philosophy.”
A problem, Smith recalls, was that students who had originally volunteered to express their needs and wants at the focus groups simply did not show. This understandably makes it difficult for Bon Appétit to gauge how to address particular needs.
“During our survey, we asked students to sign up for the focus groups, and we had each one full to capacity. A day before each session, we e-mailed those who signed up and anticipated full focus groups. We had two sessions each day with ten people per session. We did the focus groups for one week. We only had around thirty people show up of the one hundred who signed up.”
Student Nicole Henson attended one of the focus groups hosted by Bon Appétit. “They asked pretty basic questions like, ‘What would improve your dining experience?’ or, ‘What would you like to see in the cafeteria?’ We went around with our answers and discussed the issues.” The group discussed a few choice concerns as well, such as how the dining ware has been disappearing and how much food is wasted.
Students have had strong opinions in regards to how the services and
cuisine currently provided by Bon Appétit can be improved. Student Eugene Haller says he feels that there is too little variety and too much pomp in the cafeteria. “They try too hard to look upscale. I don’t necessarily just want sushi—I want the option of having barbecue or chicken fried steak too.” Haller went on to say that he wishes Bon Appétit would incorporate more local, Texas foods.
Student Amanda Nevarez says she also has many problems with how things
are being run in the dining hall. “When I first heard that the school was going to redo the cafeteria, I was really excited. That really isn’t the case anymore. I try to avoid eating there as much as I can.” Nevarez criticizes Bon Appétit for their lack of selection, the quality of the food, and the inopportune dining hall hours. “Some students can’t get food when it’s open, so then they’re out of luck.”
Stone says that a report of the results from the polls, surveys, and focus group discussions should be ready around March 1. “The data from the surveys and focus groups is being processed and analyzed by the regional marketing staff of Bon Appétit. When Bon Appetit has completed their analysis, the results will be shared with St. Edward’s, including the Dining Services Advisory Council.”
Smith reiterates that Bon Appétit is listening to students and doing its best to address any problems or areas that may be improved. “One [concern] was about having the cereal left out all day and not just for breakfast. We started to leave it out all day and have had a few responses about it. Students were happy, especially those who like cereal for all meal periods. We are listening.”