Food Advisory Board discusses signage, entry to The Commons, and more at biweekly meeting

Date: 
Sat, 2017/10/07
By: 
Ethan Castro

Continuing in its biweekly trend, the Illinois Tech Food Advisory Board (FAB), a joint subsidiary of the Student Government Association (SGA) and Residence Hall Association (RHA), held an open meeting with the management team of Illinois Tech Dining Services on Thursday, October 5 in the Pritzker Club in the MTCC. These meetings function as open platforms for the student body to directly air out concerns regarding the state of campus dining to the managers who can turn such feedback into strategic change.

As is tradition, the meeting began with Illinois Tech Dining Services General Manager Chris Ferenc providing a list of updates on what changes his team had made in response to prior FAB feedback. One such change was the opening of the stir fry section during the Sunday dinner period in The Commons; this is in direct response to student requests for additional meal variety during the weekends and especially on Sundays when more students are present (compared to the rest of the weekend). With this addition, The Commons now serves made-to-order stir fry on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays for dinner, while made-to-order pasta is served for dinner on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. The FAB decision to have The Commons’ grill feature a more premium item at least once a week has also been implemented, with a healthy amount of positive feedback on dishes such as the pesto salmon and shrimp sandwich that have been featured because of this addition. Also in The Commons, larger bowls have been made available at the salad bar to better accommodate students' salads. Moving outside of The Commons, Starbucks coffee is now available at 10 West in the IIT Tower, and Starbucks cold brew is now available at Global Grounds in the MTCC. Ferenc concluded this recap with the comment that he is “pleased with what [he is] hearing in terms of feedback on menu selections.” Student feedback is and will continue to be important to him and his team in shaping Dining Services’ strategies, he stated, and students are encouraged to reach out to RHA or even Dining Services directly with additional feedback so that this process of students informing strategy can continue.

The main item of concern brought forward by the RHA and SGA student representatives present was an increase in signage and advertising of Dining Services’ specials. For example, students are oftentimes simply unaware of when special themed meals are occurring (such as the Oktoberfest lunch buffet that was held on Thursday, October 5). Illinois Tech Dining Services Marketing Manager Eddie Skidmore took in RHA’s feedback that redundancy is key in making sure this information is properly conveyed to the student body. He promised that he would look into adding additional sign holders in the area outside of The Commons, as well as continuing to keep a digital presence on both Facebook (through the Illinois Tech Dining Services Facebook page) and in Illinois Tech Today. Additionally, he will create signage that will more directly advertise what changes are the result of FAB, in an attempt to draw more attention to the power that student input has in shaping the overall dining experience.

Finally, another issue brought to the attention of Illinois Tech Dining Services was the observed occurrences of students entering the Commons through the patio doors without ever scanning in at the main entrance and proceeding to eat without ever having a meal deducted. Ferenc stated that, ideally, the patio doors are designed to not open from the outside, but this is clearly not the current reality. He and his team simply stated that this issue would be brought to the attention of the university to better address in terms of adding additional infrastructure to the patio doors to prevent such issues from occurring the in future. It should be noted that Skidmore has caught many students attempting to enter The Commons for free and has directly led them to scan in like they should have, so such violations do not go unnoticed.

FAB meets every two weeks on Thursdays at the Pritzker Club in the MTCC from 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.. The next such meeting will be held on Thursday, October 19. In the meantime, feedback, suggestions, and criticisms of Illinois Tech Dining Services can be sent to RHA at rha@iit.edu.