Regarding campus dining
The dining hall experience at Brandeis was off to a rough start at the very beginning of August — with limited options, overcrowded dining halls, and long wait times — but some notable and commendable changes have been made since then. The University officially signed a contract with Harvest Table Culinary Group in July 2022 after students “were left disenchanted” with Sodexo, a catering giant, as per a May 3 Justice article. The Brandeis Sustainability Ambassadors heavily advocated for Harvest Table because the dining service emphasized sustainability in aspects of labor, service, and food preparation.
One of the problems that Brandeis Hospitality has solved successfully in the last week was making more gluten-free options available to students. Currently, most of the Upper Usdan pick-up locations including Greens and Grains, Nakiri Ramen, and La Sabrosa have gluten-free substitutions. Dining halls seem to be addressing these issues by incorporating gluten-free pasta at meal stations and keeping the allergen-free zones stocked with alternatives. Students can also exclude ingredients depending on their preferences on the Starship app, which was not available at the start of the semester. Additionally, new Starship robots on campus are offering a contactless option for food delivery can be helpful as we continue to live through the COVID-19 pandemic.
But there are some lingering concerns that must be addressed despite the responsive changes that have already been made to the dining experience on campus. More options that address variety, accessibility, and efficiency are always appreciated by students, and Brandeis Hospitality can address them in more ways than one:
- Expand what menu options can count as a meal swipe at Upper Usdan – students might be more encouraged to order from Upper if they don’t have to use points, and this may reduce the size of the crowds in the dining halls.
- Make the Stein available on the Starship app so students have another option for meals to pick up. Alert students of unexpected early closures or late openings of dining locations either via the app or on social media. It would be more convenient if students could order from more than one location at a time on the app.
- Instead of preventing students from ordering from a dining location if it is experiencing a high volume of orders, let students order and increase the wait times listed in the app when order volume is high. This could also reduce in-person lines, because if students aren’t able to order on the app they may choose to order in-person at locations where this is an option.
- Keep the menu updated on the app especially if ingredients are out of stock, and provide a direct message digital platform or easy communication between dining workers and students. (In many cases, students have put in orders, but due to confusion or ingredients that are out of stock, they only found out about the problems with the order once they already waited and arrived in person to pick it up. Many times they have been exempt from refunds.)
- Improve the accuracy of the notification system on the app to ensure that orders are actually ready when students receive the notification. While we appreciate that order numbers on the labels have been made larger so students can find them with greater ease, it would be more helpful if the printed labels instead displayed students’ names — this would be a better method to prevent a student from accidentally taking another student’s order.
- The food robots have been seen parked outside Upper Usdan near Dunkin’ —an area of campus that experiences high levels of foot traffic at certain times of the day. Give the robots a new loading dock/resting point that doesn’t narrow or block a path that troves of students frequent.
This editorial board recognizes that it might take some time for these suggested changes to be implemented and that Brandeis Hospitality remains open to receiving feedback from the student body. To Brandeis students, please be patient with the dining experience – the University is still in a transitional phase —and keep in mind that the dining workers are doing their best to serve us.