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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

To the new Dining Hall

Hello readers.

Many of you, I'm sure, have had a chance to eat at the dining hall at least once this year.
--and by eat in the dining hall, I really mean stand in line.

Today, unfortunately, was a bit of a --pardon the phrase--clusterfuck of ill planning. Particularly during the 12:30pm  lunch period. I will optimistically assume that it was just because they were unaware of what a crowd it would be, but let's get serious: MWF lunches at that time have been overcrowded for years.

Well, anyway, rather than waiting for changes to be made without any of my input, I decided to give some feedback to the dining hall. I really hope they don't hate me for it, but if they do, then hey: that's my life.

Here's the letter I wrote. I figured some of my readers might enjoy it.
"This is my fourth year at HSC, so I've had plenty experience with the dining hall under the dark reign of Aramark. I was pleased to learn that my senior year would be ruled over by a new service, and looked forward to this prospect. My first few days back, too, before classes started, I was pleased with what I saw: Fresh, tasty food (food which actually looked like food), a clean tasteful atmosphere, and attractive presentation. 

I was a bit skeptical, though. Despite how much I enjoyed those first couple of days, I had a horrible suspicion dwelling in the pit of my stomach--I quickly realized that all of these attractive features of a dining hall came at a price: speed. In olden days, all that was required was a quick plate-bun-patty-bun-fries maneuver to get food out to the waiting students. Now, however, it seems like the food has yet to be cooked, and THEN must be plated neatly and fashionably in a paper-lined basket before it can be placed under the heat lamps for the students to grab.

Now, I appreciate that you at least appear to care about what food is being served to us students, but I find myself in a bind. I am a very busy student (it IS my senior year, after all), and I am on a tight schedule. While I was in the dining hall today, I waited ten minutes before any food even appeared at the grill station (only one of the stations plagued by this catastrophe), and when this basket of food was taken, it was a good five minutes more before another basket showed up. Since I was in a rush, I just grabbed some pizza, ate it, and left. This tiny meal is not really enough to feed me on a good day, and it has not been a good day. 

My feedback, then, is this: please do not sacrifice speed for presentation. Our HSC dining hall isn't really a restaurant and has never been the greatest food on the planet, but at least it has fed us with time to spare so that we may continue on our way. I have high hopes that service will improve as time progresses, but I felt the need to say something now, anyway. Just keep in mind that great food and great presentation mean nothing to us if we are not able to obtain the food due to long lines.

I really do appreciate everything, though, and hope that my feedback doesn't seem too negative.

Here's hoping for a great year, 
Walter McCoy, Class of 2013"

I just sent this off, so hopefully we'll see some changes soon. In the meantime, if you feel as passionately as I do about not  dying of starvation, feel free to send the dining hall some feedback about their performance! CLICK HERE to do so.

Stay Strong, readers!
--Your Editor

So, recently my blog was linked to on a Fox News article titled "Worst colleges for foodies." I'm not terribly bothered by the fact that they linked to my material without considering asking me about the article or whatever, but I am a bit perturbed at the way they paint the picture. Fox News based their ratings on the Princeton Review (without actually linking a source, mind you), which was published in August. According to Fox News, the Princeton Review ranked Hampden-Sydney the #4 worst college for food in the country. What Fox News didn't mention or point out, though, is that the Princeton Review published in August was a review of last year's dining service. While their article does point out that we changed from Aramark to Thompson Hospitality, they never once make a point to acknowledge that the review does not speak for this year's food service quality.

That being said, the article drew a LOT of attention to my blog (over 500 hits in a single day!). Unfortunately, this commotion also started on the same day where I posted an article about the recent hate crime on campus, an article which, sadly, isn't being read nearly as much as this unimportant one about food. Additionally, the publicity reflected negatively on the dining hall itself, and to the people running it. I personally feel at fault, too, for having not updated this article at all.

Anyway, the day this all started, I got a text message from Darryl Rudge, the director of Thompson Hospitality. He asked if he could speak with me about my dining experience during the year. Of course, I immediately felt guilty--the only reason he would think to contact me is if he had read my article. Well I spoke with him, and we had a good conversation about the things that I thought were really done well. I also told him that I was planning to update this entry (which I am doing now).

The point of this update, then, is really to provide an update of how I have experienced the changes in the food service. Since I wrote the last article, my main complaint (the long lines) has essentially vanished. I hardly ever end up waiting in lines anymore. Additionally, they've managed to cut the time waiting in lines without sacrificing the presentability of the food. The food is well cooked, looks great, tastes fantastic, and is something that I would gladly wait for if I even still had to wait for it. The staff is great, and I actually enjoy eating in there now (something I couldn't really say about Aramark).

Mr. Rudge also seemed really interested about what I had to say about how the service compared to the service under what I referred to as the "Dark Reign of Aramark." I told him that Aramark had a very assembly-line approach to service: the food was in "buckets", (which was really the only word I could come up with), the staff was often disinterested and unfriendly (with some exceptions, of course), and food was rarely palatable. Since Thompson Hospitality took over, I can't even imagine referring to the dining hall as "The Moans" anymore.

To conclude, I just want to make it clear that the dining service this year is actually rather fantastic, and I think Fox News is less so. Thanks for reading!!

--Your Editor.


  1. And maybe they will take our honor system into account and let us give them our ID numbers when we forget our cards. Something I was never told abt by the school.

    1. Ah! That's a problem that I hadn't forseen or encountered, but that is also a good point. I imagine they could get a bit lenient with that, given time, but you might want to write to them and address that idea.

  2. Overall I thought the lines were pretty short and not too upsetting. If the quality of the food is better then I personally don't mind waiting a minute or two extra. The service is also outstanding.

    1. The lines at the beginning of the semester were pretty long, but they have, since, gotten much shorter. And I definitely agree now that the extra minute or two worth of waiting time is worth it for the food. My main issue before had been that there were days where the lines were too long for me to even /get/ food before I had to leave for classes. That hasn't happened again.

  3. You know its a problem in the dining hall when you dont care anymore what you are in line for, only that it is the shortest line to be in and you know you will get food the fastest.

    1. On the plus side to that, the food is probably going to be good, no matter which line you get in. In my case, I have some dietary limitations, and will only eat certain foods, but after talking with Mr. Rudge, the dining service definitely addresses these problems as they arrive.

  4. I would like to say thanks for your sharing this useful information. Nice post keep it up. Hope to see you next post again soon.
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