Rave reviews

Rave reviews

By University Communications
September 22, 2013

Students give high marks to University Dining Services

One of the nearly 450 University Dining Services employees helps a customer.

Photo: One of the nearly 450 University Dining Services employees helps a customer.

With new and revamped restaurants and expanded menus, the food service at University of Wisconsin-Stout is getting two thumbs up from students.

In two recent surveys of students by Educational Benchmarking Inc., UW-Stout exceeded the national average in every category, including food quality, service, dining environment and prices.

One survey was of students who live on campus and use campus dining plans. Out of 248 universities in the survey, UW-Stout’s overall average was nearly a half-point higher than the national average.

Another EBI survey was of students who live on and off campus, eating in the cafeterias, student center restaurants and other venues. UW-Stout beat the national average, sometimes significantly, for 91 universities in all nine question areas.

Ann Thies, director of University Dining Services, points to improvements made as a result of numerous facility projects in the past five years as a key reason for the satisfied student customers.

In 2009 the largest cafeteria on campus, Merle M. Price Commons, was updated as part of a building renovation. In 2010 a new north campus cafeteria, North Point, opened. In 2012 all food venues in the Memorial Student Center were rebuilt as part of a $19 million building renovation.

“With each renovation came a review of menus that were carefully crafted to reflect what customers desire and the trends in the industry,” Thies said.

“Much of the menu is focused on allowing individual choices. Facilities were designed to deliver those menu items at clean, fresh and welcoming venues.”

UW-Stout’s survey results are up significantly since 2008, which was prior to facility upgrades. Food services scored higher in food quality and in variety of places to eat. They also improved in six other more specific aspects, such as dining room atmosphere, customer service and hours of operation.

Tressa Retallick, a senior from Eau Claire, has noticed the food service improvements in her four years on campus. “I’ve definitely seen it grow. From everything I’ve heard from my friends, our food is way better than other universities,” she said.

Retallick said that prices are reasonable — she can get a hot panini sandwich and chips in the student center for $4.79 — and the service, cleanliness and food options are good. She cited the make-your-own-sandwich bar at Merle M. Price Commons cafeteria, plenty of fresh fruit, salad and vegetables and the student center’s vegetarian and gluten-free options.

“I’ve always been impressed with the quality and variety of the food,” said Retallick, who is majoring in hotel, restaurant and tourism management.

University Dining Services is a self-contained UW-Stout operation, one of five in the UW System; the others are at Madison, Milwaukee, Platteville and Stevens Point. Fiscal-year profits are returned to UW-Stout.

On a typical day this fall, more than 7,000 UW-Stout customers are served on campus via menus and recipes developed by 38 professional staff members and more than 400 part-time student employees.

“The philosophy of ‘here to serve our customers, not shareholders’ drives our decisions,” Thies said. “As a self-operated entity with no profits leaving the university, the department takes seriously its role to keep costs down for students, who are in effect the stakeholders of the operation.”

University Dining, a member of the National Association of College and University Food Services, encourages professional development opportunities for staff members and ongoing feedback about operations.

“It’s critical for the staff to be proactive in continuous improvement,” Thies said.

In addition to providing daily food services to the approximately 9,200 students, faculty, staff and campus visitors, University Dining has a catering service for special events on and off campus, including banquets, receptions and conferences.

For more information on University Dining Services, go to www.uwstout.edu/dining or www.facebook.com/uwstoutdining