February 03, 2017 by Alexandra Jones
It’s been four weeks since dining hall service resumed operations at Drexel University with Aramark and diners say they have noticed a difference in both food quality and service with the new provider.
“People working there are a lot nicer now,” freshman business and engineering major Animesh Peddireddi said. He added that they’re the same workers, there’s just a change in their attitude.
“And the food is much better,” he continued. “For example, they’ve cut down the desserts at the Hans and provided more space for salads.”
He said this might be because of the new management style, something that he and his friends have noticed. When Sodexo ran the cafeterias in the fall, management seemed to be mostly absent. But now, supervisors often sit or stand next to the workers to keep an eye on them, he said.
President of the Undergraduate Student Government Association Brittany Tucciarone agreed: “I think it’s changed.”
It all seems healthier, she continued. For instance, broccoli is steamed this term, not doused in butter and salt.
Shortly after the announcement that Aramark would replace SodexoMagic as Drexel’s food service provider fall term, Tucciarone reached out to Rita LaRue who oversees campus dining as vice president of campus services.
Tucciarone said she told LaRue that she knew students were disappointed with campus dining and thought USGA could act as a liaison between Aramark and the student body.
As a resident assistant at North Hall, Tucciarone frequents both the Handschumacher Dining Center and Urban Eatery weekly. And although she oversees upperclassmen, she often hears what the freshmen with meal plans are complaining about from other RAs.
More options for students with dietary restrictions, Kosher, halal, gluten free, vegetarian or vegan, are high on some students’ wishlists.
But the biggest issues? Hours and portion sizes.
Urban Eatery operates from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. throughout the week. The Hans is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays. Tucciarone said these hours are not ideal for athletes with early morning practices.
Since Urban Eatery is the only cafeteria open until 11 a.m. athletes eat there in the mornings. But the amount of food students can get with one meal swipe at Urban is less than the amount of food they can get at the Hans where refills are unlimited.
In a meeting with Aramark representatives, Tucciarone said she and a few other representatives from each class just had an open discussion in which the student government brought up these issues.
“They were very candid,” the USGA president said. “They wanted to hear everything that students were upset about currently and how they could make it better.”
Kristina Coble, Aramark’s resident district manager at Drexel, told The Triangle in an email correspondence how cafeteria operations have changed this term.
Coble said that Aramark has debuted a restaurant rotation at Urban Eatery’s Street Fare station, which showcases a new weekly menu each week. Food styles range from Mediterranean and Korean to Indian. Other additions to Urban Eatery have included a self-serve option at the REV Endless Breakfast station and La Colombe coffee at Downtown Grounds.
At the Hans, Coble said that Aramark has added more gluten-free pantry options and brought back The Deli.
Another of Aramark’s adjustments, she said, was creating more visible on-site nutrition labels and signs at both cafeterias.
According to LaRue, Drexel Campus Services’ top priority throughout January has been transitioning operations smoothly between vendors.
“With the Aramark team fully operational on campus, we will spend the next several months working with the USGA, and any other interested student groups or individuals, on planning the future of Drexel Campus Dining,” LaRue wrote in an email correspondence with The Triangle.
Students can give feedback to Aramark employees instantly through an online survey platform called Voice of the Consumer. VOC allows the student to choose the dining hall they’ve eaten at and then asks them to rank from 1 to 10 how pleased they were with their dining experience and service. Boxes are available for students to explain their rankings.
When the VOC survey is completed, it sends an instant message to Aramark management at the location students indicated.