New Director of HUDS Pushes Customer Service Beyond 'Swiping with a Smile'

David P. Davidson, new managing director of HUDS, has taped a word cloud to his office’s glass wall, which looks out onto the rest of HUDS office.

The cloud is composed of words such as caring, good, food, communication, and service. They complete the sentence at the top of the poster: “Dining Services Customer Service Culture is....”

From planning a dinner to commemorate Harvard’s 375th anniversary to opening Plaza Taco, Harvard University Dining Services has had a busy year.

But amidst this hustle and bustle, HUDS has also made a concerted effort to improve customer service and employee satisfaction—two goals that David P. Davidson has pushed since he took over as managing director of HUDS last October.

“Customer Service is beyond just swiping with a smile,” is Davidson’s mantra, and is emblematic of his philosophy that employees should have positive relationships both with students and with one another.

“I think a lot of conversations I have with our managers is trying to get the message out that we care about our employees,” Davidson says.


Davidson worked as director of retail dining at Harvard from 1991 to 2000, before moving on to serve as executive director of dining services at Yale and director of dining services at Phillips Exeter Academy.

Missing the Boston area, Davidson returned to Harvard in 2007 as director of retail and residential operations for HUDS.

When former HUDS Managing Director Ted A. Mayer announced he would retire last year, Davidson applied for the job.

As managing director, Davidson oversees the 13 undergraduate dining halls, the Kosher kitchen, 14 cafes, Crimson Catering, marketing finance, and the Food Literacy Project.

But Davidson has still found time to work closely with the management team to “create a culture where everyone is respected and everyone is treated in a professional way,” Davidson says.

And those who work with Davidson have noticed these efforts.

“The walls have come down,” Susan G. Simon, HUDS senior human resources consultant, says of the HUDS office environment. “[Davidson is] very easy to talk to. There’s a lot of positive energy.”

In his attempts to bolster staff satisfaction, Davidson revamped HUDS’ training programs. Twenty hours a week, four hours a day during winter and spring break, HUDS staff members are required to take two classes. The University-mandated classes focus on topics such as sanitation and workplace harassment.


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