Dining Survey Gauges Students’ Favorites
“Before this survey, I wouldn’t have been able to say confidently that popcorn chicken is more popular than chicken fingers. Now I can,” said HUDS spokesperson Alexandra McNitt.
The survey, completed by 1,484 students in October, asked for entree preferences and special dietary needs of students.
It found that 64.4 percent of students eat meat while 17.8 percent define themselves as vegetarians and about 1 percent are vegan. Additionally, 9.7 percent have some sort of food intolerance.
The main thrust of the survey, however, was to figure out which entrees were most and least popular in order to tailor menus to student preferences.
In the past, HUDS has gauged the relative popularity of entrees according to the amount of food consumed in dining halls. Thus, directly comparing the popularity of apple gorgonzola salad with French onion soup was difficult.
Since HUDS kicked off online surveying last year, response rates have increased dramatically and analyzing poll results has become much easier.
As a result, HUDS hopes to respond faster to the preferences expressed in the surveys and even offer students a say in what goes on the menu.
“Our menu cycle takes a while to integrate new items, so our chef has had to be very creative,” McNitt said. “We are trying to get things going as soon as possible though.”
This fall, respondents overwhelmingly asked for chicken tikka masala.
“It was interesting, because all of a sudden all we saw was ‘chicken tikka masala, chicken tikka masala, chicken tikka masala...,’” McNitt said.
In response, HUDS researched the dish quickly, founds sources for ingredients and offered it as the Chef’s Choice entree last Monday night.
Pad thai and sushi will also appear sometime in the next two weeks, according to McNitt.
Since sushi is expensive and requires skillful preparation, it will only be served occasionally as a special culinary display.
McNitt said one of the most interesting things about the survey are how students preferences are not always consistent.
“We see a lot of contradictory information. As many people say that the food we serve is too spicy as say that our food isn’t spicy enough,” she said.
McNitt’s observation was true of even the most popular dish:
“I love popcorn chicken—it’s great that we’ll have more,” Max J. Meltzer ’05 said.
Other students disagreed. “We have too much already,” Sam J. Browning ’05 said.