Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

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Changes to Fordham Dining Get Positive Student Response

Changes to Fordham Dining Get Positive Student Response

Jennifer Spencer

When Fordham students came back to campus this fall, they were greeted by some delicious surprises. Over 10 weeks this summer, Fordham Dining Services completed major overhauls, transforming the University’s dining services at both campuses.

At Rose Hill, new restaurants including Panda Express, Cosi, Starbucks, and Jamba Juice, were opened across campus, providing students more varied food options, brand name national chains, and easier access to food in more locations across campus.

Lincoln Center’s cafeteria also underwent renovations and made a name change. The new Ram Cafe features an expanded menu at the Energy Kitchen restaurant, offering meals under 500 calories and a create-your-own-salad bar.

At Rose Hill, new unlimited meal plans also offer “meal exchange,” which allows students to use their meal swipe up to three times daily at many of the new retail outlets on campus, rather than being limited to the cafeteria-style Marketplace.

Fordham Dining has also extended hours at Rose Hill’s Marketplace, offering late-night dining until 10 p.m. to best accommodate students’ busy schedules. So what do students have to say about the new and improved on-campus dining experience?

“There is such a positive energy on campus. You can stay on campus now to have a great lunch date with a friend that, in the past, you might have gone to Arthur Avenue for,” said Sama Habib, president of Fordham’s Student Culinary Council and vice chair of a student-engagement committee that helped implement the changes.

Habib isn’t the only student happy with the results. A survey conducted this semester by the student newspaper The Ram indicated that 73 percent of 143 students surveyed thought the dining services were "good" or "better."

The changes were implemented as part of a comprehensive review of Fordham Dining Services that included a request-for-proposal (RFP) process to consider a new food service vendor.

As part of the overhaul, the University hired a full-time University dining contract liaison, Deming Yaun. Yaun said that while the University’s previous vendor, Sodexo, ultimately won the contract for another 10 years, a new management team at the company and new initiatives are responsible for providing a very different dining experience.

“The Sodexo team working with Fordham understands the nature of the business. In a way, while it’s the same company name, the experience is entirely different,” Yaun said.

Brendan Francolini, a Gabelli School senior, chaired the student-engagement committee involved in the review of campus dining services.

He said the committee, which included representatives from the Residence Hall Association, Commuter Student Association, and United Student Government from both Lincoln Center and Rose Hill, worked during the 2012–2013 academic year to represent the most objective student perspectives on the matter.

“We saw it as an amazing opportunity for students to have an influential voice in a decision that involves every member of our community—providing the best service for our students today and the students to come in the future,” Francolini said.

Once the decision was made to continue with Sodexo, Yaun said that the University worked with the new management team to implement changes as quickly as possible.

“We wanted to create immediate impact from the RFP process this year,” he said.

The changes affect students in ways big and small. Elizabeth Birnbaum, an FCLC junior and president of the Residence Hall Association at Lincoln Center, lives at McMahon Hall. She said the improved options at the Ram Cafe have given her easy access to healthy—and delicious—food.

“It makes my life as a student a lot easier, and it’s easier to make healthy choices. I could go out into the city and get a McDonald’s bacon cheeseburger, but now I can go to Energy Kitchen here on campus, where everything’s under 500 calories, and still fulfill that craving for a burger in a much healthier way,” she said.

And for those moments when you just need a little treat, students at Rose Hill have flocked to the very popular outpost of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels at Queen’s Court.

“Auntie Anne’s is a guilty pleasure. People smell it, and they flock to it,” said Habib. “I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad about it being there. It’s dangerous!”

Yaun said Fordham will continue to work with Sodexo to introduce fresh infusions of new culinary choices throughout the year. Fordham also works closely with the Student Culinary Council to implement changes such as sustainability initiatives.

“Students are our customers, and we have to go through the locations as a customer as often as we can. That’s when the experience becomes real,” he said.

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