The atmosphere in the Juniper Dining hall has changed quite a bit since a month ago, when a photo of a piece of bloody chicken purportedly served in the dining hall circulated around Facebook last month.
When students now walk in, they will hear music playing overhead and see recently installed large-screen televisions they can watch while they eat their meals.
These changes are just some of those made in the last month, and were implemented in response to complaints and suggestions made by students during a forum held by USF Dining Services after the chicken incident.
Topics discussed at the forum ranged from the customer service given by employees to whether or not generic brand cereal should be considered an acceptable substitute for name brands.
“The changes have been good, and the food has gotten better,” Jocelyn Barraza, a freshman majoring in biomedical sciences, said. “The servers are a lot more friendly, and the televisions are a nice addition as well as the music.”
The week after the picture gained attention, the management at the dining hall was replaced. The weekend hours of two dining halls, Fresh Food Company and Juniper Dining, have also been extended.
Earlier this semester, both dining halls were open until 8 p.m. on Fridays and until 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Fresh Food Company is now open until 9 p.m. from Friday through Sunday, and Juniper Dining is open until 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and until 11 p.m. on Sundays.
“I think the televisions are nice, but completely unnecessary,” David Craig, a sophomore majoring in biomedical sciences, said. “The food has improved with no undercooked chicken, the music is a nice touch and the people are a lot nicer.”
Craig said he has noticed improvements in the cleanliness of the dining hall, but hopes the quality of the food will improve further.
“It seems cleaner, but I want to see more healthy options,” he said.
Jeff Mack, assistant vice president of USF campus business services, said the change in hours at the dining halls was an example of Dining’s response to the concerns heard from students.
“Some students voiced their concerns especially about Sunday nights,” Mack said. “It’s a school night, and so when (students) come back, they want to be able to be in the dining hall later that night, and they also do on the weekends. Those hours have been changed as well. Of course, we always want to look at what the hours are going to be to meet the needs of the community.”
Kayleigh Main, a freshman majoring in biology, said the overall improvements are mainly in an improvement in the taste of the food.
“I think that you can notice the improvements,” she said. “The food is a lot better, and there is not really a big difference in how the food is prepared. Most of the people (working) will smile when asked for food, but some just hand the food over.”
Other changes made in the dining halls include signs posted at the front entrance of each dining hall that list its management team and the current manager on duty.
Dining Services also has employed more than 15 “secret diners,” or students who attended the food forum who are paid in Dining Dollars to fill out surveys within 24 hours of eating in specific dining halls about their experiences. Dining staff in the halls are unaware of who the “secret diners” are.
“We have received great feedback over the past few weeks and have implemented many changes to further evaluate menu variety, food quality and customer service,” Ashley Horowitz, interim marketing manager for Aramark the company that manages USF Dining, said in an emailed statement to The Oracle. “Our new management teams are actively working to ensure that we continually deliver a dining program that the USF community is proud of today and for years to come.”
Aramark declined to comment further unless a list of questions was provided via email.
Mack said changes to the dining halls are far from complete, and will continue as USF Dining receives more feedback from students.
“It never stops,” he said. “Especially in regards to the feedback. The feedback that we got at the forum, and we’ve had some other focus groups and we continue to get from people, is critical to providing services that we need in the dining halls.”
Though Mack said he is not aware of what specific changes are in the works, he said the process of gathering feedback from students will continue the improvement process, and students should reach out to dining management with any comments or concerns they may have.
“Our goal is to have world-class dining services on our campus,” Mack said. “And that can only be accomplished through feedback and addressing the needs. We always want to be on top of what the needs and desires are of the students.”
— Additional reporting by Kimberly McDaniel