Dinner will be served by Bon Appétit

Student input was vital, say committee members

Bon Appétit Management Company will be the provider for the new House Dining, effective next semester. Bon Appétit is the current provider for residential dining.

Bon Appétit was chosen based on a combination of input from an Evaluation Committee consisting of students and faculty housemasters from the dorms with dining halls — Baker, McCormick, Next, Simmons, and the Phoenix Group — as well as analysis of financial factors by members of the MIT administration.

Three vendors — Bon Appétit, Aramark, and Sodexo — responded to MIT’s request for proposals. They were evaluated on their initial written proposals, a presentation to the Evaluation Committee, and site visits by members of the Evaluation Committee. Site visits consisted of members of the committee going to schools that had dining plans from each of the vendors.

The Evaluation Committee developed pro/con lists for each of the vendors and came up with a list of recommendations. These recommendations were submitted to members of the administration, who made the final decision. Input from the Evaluation Committee was considered alongside financial analysis before the administration reached its final decision.

Site visits were cited as a particularly important part of the decision making process. Hannah M. Rice ’11, the student representative from McCormick, said she visited three schools, one for each vendor, to get the “candid opinions” of students. “I asked about how they like the food, the staff, the best and worst thing about dining at their school … to get a sense of how the students view and interact with the dining service.”

Baker representative Michael E. Plasmeier ’13 said he went up to students eating in dining halls to get their opinions on dining at their school. It was input from students at other schools that made Bon Appétit stand out for Plasmeier. “When I talked to the students there, they were all highly satisfied with [Bon Appétit],” said Plasmeier.

Committee members said they were looking for a vendor that would provide the highest quality food while meeting the needs of MIT students. Steven R. Hall ’80, associate housemaster of Simmons, said the committee was trying to find a “vendor who would provide consistently high quality food and would be responsive to the needs of the community.” The need for effective communication was also noted by Christina R. Johnson ’11, who served on the Evaluation Committee as Dormitory Council president and the student representative from Simmons. Johnson said the committee was also looking for a vendor that would “understand the need of the MIT community.”

Members of the committee expressed satisfaction both with the final conclusion and the process of vetting vendors. “It was a very good way to go about it … the committee is happy with the decision that was made,” said Hall.

Students on the Evaluation Committee praised the level of involvement they had in the process. It “got students involved above and beyond what other schools did,” said Plasmeier. “Student involvement was high in regards to the non-financial matters … the students were involved wherever housemasters were involved.”

“I am very satisfied with the final decision and very satisfied with the process,” said Johnson. “I feel that I had an opportunity to voice my concerns … students did have a voice on the committee at every step.”

Kathryn M. Hess, housemaster of McCormick, said, “the student perspective was vital and an integral part of the evaluation process.” Hess praised the commitment of the students who served on the committee. “The students on the committee particularly took their responsibilities … very seriously.”

Despite the fact that Bon Appétit is the current provider for dining on campus, students should expect to see changes in the system. With the addition of Maseeh Hall as a new dining dorm, as well as the shift to an “all you care to eat” system, the structure of the offerings in dining halls will likely change substantially. Kelly McDonald, the Resident District Manager for Bon Appétit, said “there will be a lot of changes, but there will be a lot of listening.”

McDonald said the dining halls will continue to provide food that is fresh, made from scratch, and local if possible. With the addition of Howard Dining Hall at Maseeh Hall and the move to an all you care to eat system, students can expect “wider variety, more options, and more special programs,” according to McDonald. Part of the plan involves making each of the dining halls a “destination house” with its own unique offerings. Additionally, all of the dining halls should have vegetarian and vegan options.

The next stage of finalizing dining plans is implementation of the new system. Henry J. Humphreys, senior associate dean of Residential Life and Dining, said student input will continue to be considered and will be important for decision making.

Allan E. Miramonti ’13, the incoming Undergraduate Association President, noted the importance of keeping students involved as the dining process moves forward. Miramonti said that “students should stay steadfast to what they believe,” and that the UA will be “concerned with getting feedback and making sure the administration doesn’t forget about how students feel.” In yesterday’s UA meeting, Amy E. Riley ’14 was elected as chair of the UA Dining Committee.