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Chartwells improves dining options after student feedback

February 7, 2018

Dining services on campus have been a concern for a while now. From underwhelming options in the Riverside Commons to a lack of affordable meals in the Rapids, the frustration with the meal plans’ value is widespread. Last semester, students started to voice their dissatisfaction more than ever before. In mid-November, the problem was finally addressed.

The Student Senate called a meeting with representatives from Chartwells to answer questions about dining options. Following the meeting, they resolved to make improvements over J-term. For those who aren’t up to date with the situation, the changes may not be obvious.

Susan Boettcher, the director of dining services, described the many new options that students may not be aware have been added. Many suggestions were made at the Student Senate meeting in the fall. Chief among them were an all-encompassing meal from the Rapids, gluten-free options in Freddy’s C-Store and more healthy options across the board. All of these changes were made.

In the Riverside Commons, the changes are the most extensive. The highlights include the pasta selection, which has expanded and moved to the chef’s table. Four toppings are now available, along with whole grain pasta. To utilize the new space, the pizza selection has expanded as well. Most notably, between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., the stir fry station serves built-to-order scrambled eggs. This provides a fine consolation for students who must be up early for class.

Regarding transfer meals, Chartwells has introduced monthly meal deals. These allow for students to get an entire meal in the Rapids without having to spend dining dollars quite so regularly. “Every month they’re different, but I don’t know whether students know where to find them,” Boettcher said. The best places to check are the digital menus located throughout the University Center, UW-River Falls’ website and the University Center’s social media accounts.

The increasing enrollment over the last few years has required Chartwells to think on their feet. “We have 2,600 guests with meal plans, so we’re always evolving … What worked one semester may not work the next,” Boettcher explained. Chartwells is always seeking feedback from students. After all, it’s how the recent changes were accomplished.

Boettcher explained that the text-to-solve program is the most effective way to be heard, as the message goes straight to every manager. The managers’ emails are also posted on-site at the University Center, and there is always a supervisor on duty for problems that require immediate attention.

Kaylee Kildahl, the student body vice president, also weighed in on the changes. She thought that some of the J-term changes were a result of the Student Senate meeting, while others were not. Chartwells had changes planned prior to the meeting, such as improved training and color coding with utensils. However, the additional dining options were suggested by the senate. It was about half and half.

Kildahl assured that the student government has been very impressed so far. “It just showed that they listen to students with their initiatives,” she said. The senate is planning another meeting with Chartwells to follow up, but according to Kildahl, their outlook is very positive.

The changes have been well received by everyone involved, but most students’ perceptions haven’t necessarily improved yet. Collin Huebel, a sophomore and frequent Riverside Commons visitor, was unaware of any changes. However, when he learned about a few of the new improvements, he was pleasantly surprised. “It sounds like they need to do a better job letting us know about the changes,” Huebel said.

Chartwells’ changes over J-term hit all the right marks. Options in the Riverside Commons have expanded and transfer meals now include affordable, all-encompassing options. Student perception has hardly changed, though. It seems that Chartwells’ next big improvement may be in improving their publicity.

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