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Though elections of broader significance may have preoccupied minds this fall, a record number of students did not forget their stomachs, and found time to voice their opinions on the dining halls by responding to Harvard University Dining Services’ (HUDS) biannuual satisfaction survey, whose results were published earlier this week.
The 2,561 respondents ranked menu variety, as well as the taste and freshness of food, and marked overall satisfaction at 3.74 out of 5, compared to 3.65 and 3.60 in spring this year and fall last year, respectively.
Quincy House, enthusiastic after their dining hall redesign, boasted the most respondents, with 59.8 percent of the House taking the survey. Next was Cabot at 48.6 percent. Because it had the most respondents, Quincy will receive a special brain break—an offer the dining halls used to solicit students to complete the survey.
Christa Martin, the assistant director for marketing at HUDS, would not release survey results broken down by House because she said that some Houses had better cooking equipment than others and it would not be fair to compare them.
She said HUDS plans to enact a set of overall changes based on trends uncovered in the analysis of open-ended questions.
The most popular request was for the dining halls to continue to provide a greater variety of fresh fruits, no matter what the season.
“We had a phenomenal response regarding fresh fruits,” Martin said. “That was a real signal that we need to continue to be creative in our fruit offerings.”
HUDS will continue to serve melons, pineapples or grapefruits at breakfast and will also offer more apple, pear, and citrus varieties.
Grapes will also become a regular fixture of the Saturday morning menu, she said.
Another overwhelming trend that Martin said “blew her socks off” was the high volume of requests for pies and cobblers.
HUDS will make pies part of the dessert rotation once a week, starting with seasonal apple and pumpkin pies.
In addition to adding new items, HUDS will make the most-requested menu items available regardless of whether it is fall, winter or spring.
“Popcorn chicken is an obvious favorite,” Martin said.
In addition to popcorn chicken, chicken parmesan, a selection of rices and the turkey dinner will now be on rotation throughout all three seasons.
Seasonal drinks such as eggnog and hot cider in the winter will also be made available.
Martin said that students should look for these changes immediately, but some may take two to three weeks because of contracting with suppliers.
“The procurement department has to make sure we have the right source for a new product,” she said.
Not only does HUDS have to find a reliable source for new products, but they also must cancel menu items that aren’t as popular.
“We can’t just tell our suppliers that we no longer want a scheduled shipment of Oreo cake because students want pie,” Martin said.
While Martin said that HUDS tries to address global trends, the individual Houses also try to accommodate specific requests.
“We make sure that the managers look at information on a House-by- House basis so they can fine-tune there as well,” she said.
—Staff writer Wendy D. Widman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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