MIT needs a comprehensive new dining program to improve the diversity, quality and value of its dining services and make food available when and where students need it most, according to the Dining Review Final Report released by the Food Services Working Group (FSWG) in November.
The report recommends increasing the seating capacity of campus dining facilities, especially during the day; reopening four residential dining halls; extending dining hours in the residential halls, but probably closing Lobdell Food Court for evening meals; and improving service and value through the creation of "managed competition" between two food services contractors on campus.
All these changes should be made as part of the overall goal of "strengthening the community-building, social, educational, nutritional and citizenship aspects of Institute dining," the report said. The FSWG also recommended the creation of an advisory board, local oversight groups and a central Office of Campus Dining to oversee all campus food providers.
"The proposal creates a system for the delivery of high-quality food and dining services to our community that incorporates the suggestions made to the Working Group during our review process. It will be comprehensive and will be guided by an educational mission and a set of objectives to reemphasize residential dining," said Phillip J. Walsh, director of the Campus Activities Complex, who served as chair of the FSWG.
The FSWG received input from an advisory board, a community involvement group, and more than a dozen other campus groups and individuals. It was formed in February 1996 by William Dickson, senior vice president for operations, and Rosalind Williams, dean of students and undergraduate education, both of whom will decide if the recommendations will be enacted. If they elect to go forward with the proposal, a transition plan would be implemented to develop the new administrative and support structures and restructure current contracted operations.
TWO DINING ZONES
Under the managed competition model, the area now covered by the primary contract would be split into two separate zones or operations managed by two contractors. The goal is to have the two new contractors in operation for the 1998-99 school year.
One contractor would serve the Student Center, all residence halls and the Sloan community, while the second would provide food in Walker Memorial and all other central campus eateries.
A campus-wide catering system would also be established, consisting of nine to 12 vendors which would provide three general levels of service and menu diversity. The other campus providers in the system would be able to compete for catering jobs as well.
Aramark is now the primary food contractor on campus, operating Lobdell Food Court, Networks, the Refresher Course, Walker Memorial, the Bio Cafe, the Faculty Club, Pritchett, the Building 4 coffee shop, MacGregor Convenience, MIT Catering and the residential dining facilities in Baker and Next Houses.
The food trucks near Building 20 operate on a space lease, and other facilities on campus are student-managed and operated: the 24-hour Coffeehouse in the Student Center (through the Campus Activities Center), the Lobby 7 donut stand, the Muddy Charles Pub and the Thirsty Ear Pub. A separate contractor, Daka, provides most campus vending, along with Coke and Pepsi. MIT also leases space to LaVerde's Market and Toscanini's in the Student Center. All of these would come under the umbrella of the new dining system.
MORE RESIDENTIAL DINING
Other proposed changes include reopening four residential dining facilities in addition to those currently operating in Baker and Next Houses. McCormick Hall's dining hall and kitchen would be reopened for the 1998-99 school year. Kitchen facilities in Baker, Next and McCormick Houses would then provide catered meals in Ashdown, MacGregor and Burton-Conner until a full-service program in those houses was in place. Ashdown House dining hall would begin serving catered meals in 1998-99 and MacGregor and Burton-Conner the following year.
All other residential halls would be designated as personal cooking houses, and the Institute would make appropriate improvements to those facilities to encourage students to cook full and nutritional meals for themselves. A relationship with the new Star Market at University Park is being planned to make it easier for students to shop for food.
Several meal plans would be available to students living on campus, and the FSWG suggested that MIT explore the possibility of offering meal plans to students in independent living groups or off-campus apartments. Food truck operators would be required to join the campus dining system and follow its standards. The MIT Card would be more widely accepted, and kosher and vegetarian foods would be easier to find.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 10, 1997.