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Food and Dining
Review

A process to enhance food and dining at MIT


June 6, 2017 - In partnership with consultants Envision Strategies, the Division of Student Life (DSL) has compiled slides with highlights from the food and dining survey, completed in March by a total of 3,404 students (1,694 undergraduates, 1,704 grad students, and six who did not identify their standing). 

There are a number of key findings that arose from the survey, including these five which are of particular interest:

  1. Meal plans can be more flexible: Development of plans that conform to students’ eating habits, not trying to get students to conform to dining plans.
  2. Students need a dining option in the main group (east of Massachusetts Ave.): DSL is currently looking at options for a food service facility that will allow students to obtain a meal using a dining swipe, or for a fixed price, in the main group.
  3. Proximity, value, and speed of service are the driving factors for choosing where students to go for a meal or snack: Both undergraduates and graduate students cited these as being most important.
  4. Hours of operations need to be adjusted for facilities in and adjacent to the main block for students in the area from 5:00 – 9:00 pm: This is especially a need for graduate students, who tend to remain in the main block of buildings later than undergraduates.
  5. A large majority of cook-for-yourself community residents said they would use a pantry where they could purchase groceries or market items to use in preparing their own meals.

A copy of the slides, which were originally presented to Dormcon on May 11 and have been expanded with data on graduate students, can be downloaded here:

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March 13, 2017 - We all like eating, and we want to have a great experience while we eat. The Division of Student Life (DSL) heard from many students that there’s definitely room to improve MIT’s approach to food and dining, including availability, cost, quality, and choice. A few months ago, DSL engaged the consulting firm Envision Strategies to help us start revamping the current program. Envision has been collecting lots of input from student focus groups, and a committee made up of students, faculty, and staff.

To submit comments or suggestions for consideration in the new food and dining strategy, email thefutureoffood@mit.edu.

Below is the process so far, and next steps. Please check back to this page for updates as they become available.

Phase 1 (Winter-Summer 2016/Completed)

Dining Data Review Working Group was charged with reviewing existing data and collecting new data on MIT's food and dining program, and to write a Dining Data Review_Summary of Findings_Final Version.pdf to inform future discussions about program enhancements. Over the course of six months, data were examined from a variety of sources, and major findings were identified in six areas:

  • flexibility
  • options
  • food quality
  • staff-student connections
  • cost
  • social experience and community building

Data reveal a need to increase flexibility and options as well as improve quality without substantially increasing cost. Additionally, data show the need to preserve the positive aspects of the program, including student-staff connections and opportunities for socializing and community building. Members include:

  • Kate Farris ’17, Dormcon Dining Co-Chair
  • Mary Delaney ’16, Dormcon Dining Co-Chair
  • Peter Cummings, Executive Director of Administration, DSL
  • Liz Green, Senior Project Director of Assessment, DSL
  • Chris Artis, Financial Analyst, DSL
  • Graham Haskin, Administrative Assistant, DSL

Phase 2 (2016-2017 Academic Year)

  • Consultant Engaged (Completed November 2016): Envision Strategies is recognized as one of the premier consulting firms in the United States specializing in strategic planning and operations consulting for restaurants, foodservice, hospitality and retail enterprises. They focus on pinpointing the optimal intersection of vision with a sound business model, collaboratively transforming creative thought into reality-based solutions that define success. To begin their engagement, Envision undertook the following data-gathering efforts:
    • Reviewed existing data, started collecting more feedback from students.
    • Toured MIT retail and house dining facilities with Envision Strategies and staff.
    • Conducted focus groups with student stakeholders, including undergraduate and graduate students, meal plan holders, cook-for-yourself residents, FSILG members, and student athletes.
  • Food & Dining Survey (Launched March 2017): Envision and DSL will launch this survey to gather undergraduate and graduate student feedback on food and dining at MIT. The survey takes approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. Students who complete the survey will be entered into a drawing for four $250 gift cards and one hundred $50 TechCASH prizes. The survey is voluntary, and students can answer as many or as few questions as they like. The data are confidential. Any time data are used, it will be presented in a way that individual respondents cannot be identified. Prize winners will be notified by email after the survey closes. Technical issues with the survey should be reported to diningsurvey@mit.edu. Questions about the content of the survey should be sent to aroebuck@envstrategies.com. Results of the survey will be posted here in April. Review the survey questions here.
  • Food & Dining Survey Results (April 2017)
  • Envision's Recommendations: Combining all of the data gathered with their expertise and knowledge of the industry, Envision will make final recommendations to DSL in summer 2017.

Phase 3 (May 2017-June 2018)

  • Requests for Proposal (RFP): DSL will begin a process of selecting a dining vendor to fulfill a new food and dining strategy based on the recommendations from Envision.
    • The RFP will be developed during summer 2017
    • Potential dining vendors will receive the RFP in fall 2017
    • Presentations from prospective vendors will take place in early 2018
    • A vendor will be selected in time for fall 2018
    • Planning for implementation of the revised food and dining strategy will begin soon after the vendor is selected