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The following observations and recommendations are based on review of the Residential
and Dining Services’ menus, additional print materials, and a visit conducted on campus
on January 29, 2003. During my visit, I met with members of the Residential and Dining
Services management staff; the Health Services clinical staff; Mela Dutka, Dean of
Students, student representatives, RADS cooks, and athletic trainers.

Smith College follows a 6 week menu cycle which is a popular pattern in college feeding.
Unlike many colleges and universities that have moved to central dining, Smith remains
committed to feeding its students living in 38 residential houses from 19 different
kitchens with service in 26 dining rooms. Advantages exist with this traditional setting,
but in regards to dining, it is very inefficient and limiting. Whereas many college dining
programs offer different menus in their board operations, at Smith, all 19 kitchens
produce identical menus. Variety is limited, and as a result, students are dissatisfied with
the limited choices available.
The following comments resonated from both students and staff:
    1) food is high in fat
    2) more variety is needed
    3) healthier menu items are required
    4) vegetarian items do not contain high quality protein
    5) too much fried food is served
    6) not enough fruit is available
    7) more vegetarian options are needed

Evaluating the menus in their current format proved cumbersome. A format whereby
each menu is listed by meal component (entrée, vegetarian entrée, starch, vegetable,
soups, etc.) is a better tool by which to plan menus. I have reviewed the menus for
variety, repetition, creativity, and nutritional integrity. A more thorough analysis is
suggested, but my initial impressions are as follows:

       1) Variety is limited to one soup or appetizer, two entrée (one which is vegan),
          one starch, one vegetable, salad bar, and dessert. Since the majority of
          students are not vegan and will not chose the vegan entrée, only one choice

       2) The menus lack creativity and should include more ethnic food choices.
          Some menu items are outdated, and are no longer ideal choices for
          contemporary students. For example, shepherd’s pie and beef stroganoff are
          items which were once popular, but better choices exist. An ethnic beef
          entrée, such as Thai beef, would probably be more popular with students.

       3) Many of the entrees are high in fat. Beef stroganoff, cheese strata, veal cutlet
          grinder are items I would not suggest serving to a female population.

4) Not enough center of the plate protein items are served. Turkey cutlets don’t
   appear on the menu, and chicken, flank steak, and fish could be menued more
   often. These items are lean sources of protein which students have indicated
   they would like to see served more often.

5) Weekend dinner menu items could be improved. Many of these items, pizza,
   macaroni and cheese, tacos, quesadillas, fishwich, and chili are items that are
   typically served more for lunch than for dinner.

6) Hamburgers and hot dogs are high fat items and lower fat items, tofu dogs and
   vegetarian burgers, are offered. Other alternatives to consider in place of
   hamburgers are turkey or chicken burgers. An alternative low fat entrée
   should be served when a high fat item is menued. For example, offer grilled
   or baked chicken when fried chicken is featured. When ice cream is served,
   offer a fruit sorbet as well.

7) The menu is too repetitive. Other menu items repeat within 6 weeks and
   appear on the menu the same day of the week. For example, North African
   Vegetable Stew was served on September 12, October 19, November 20, and
   December 14. Because the menu is currently limited to two menu items per
   meal, I would suggest not repeating any menu items unless it was extremely

8) Vegetarian entrees are frequently a meatless version of the regular entrée.
   This gives students the impression there is only one entrée to choose from.
   Two entrees are offered, but the only difference is one contains meat and the
   other does not. Menus should be designed to maximize “eye appeal” with
   different shapes, colors, textures, and flavors provided. Serving shrimp
   scampi together with tempeh scampi limits menu choice. The menu with
   vegetarian eggplant roulette served with pork tenderloin is a stronger menu
   coupling. With the later menu, students have two quite different entrée
   choices. More meals should follow this pattern.

9) Tofu is a great source of protein for vegetarians, but it is menued as an entrée
   far too often. More legume and bean dishes with grains need to be

10) Some of the vegetarian entrées appear to be lacking a protein component.
    Even without the recipe ingredients to review, items such as eggplant grinder
    and pasta with marinara don’t appear to be protein dense. Nutrition analysis is
    helpful, but even without it, it is possible to determine if a recipe has adequate

Menu Recommendations For Increasing Variety

Adding variety to the menu should be given the highest priority. The challenge is to do
this using existing labor. T he following suggestions will, if implemented, increase
variety and lead to improved customer satisfaction.

       1) Increase menu variety by removing items as entrees and offering them as
          staples. For example, deli meats and cheeses can be provided daily in
          addition to the two entrees. Veggie burgers can be made to order by request,
          as well as with items such as hot dogs, grilled cheese, and hamburgers. Pasta
          and sauce can be a staple, a request mentioned by some athletes. More
          attention should be devoted to exploring this concept.

       2) Add more ethnic foods. It was suggested that foods from International Day on
          campus be incorporated into the menus. You may want to host cultural
          dinners inviting cultural clubs on campus to get involved in some capacity.
          Italian, Chinese, and Mexican cuisines have been popular for many years, but
          interest in Indian, Thai, Caribbean, and Vietnamese cuisines is growing.
          Food from all these cuisines should be part of your menu.

       3) Incorporate more special events and dinners. This is a challenge with 19
          different facilities, but a promotion calendar at the beginning of each school
          year will help keep track and communicate the plan. Plan an event for each
          month and be sure to publicize the event to the Smith community.

       4) Enhance the salad bars. Inconsistency in salad bar offerings exist from one
          dining room to the next. It is common for some cooking staff to become
          accustomed to serving the same items continuously. Adding a standardized
          list of items to CBORD, along with a list of salad items that would change
          daily, would ensure variety. Cooks would still be given the opportunity to add
          items of their choosing.

       5) Menu and market a lower fat alternative when a high fat menu item is menued,
          thus increasing the number of lower fat foods offered. For example, when
          fried chicken is menued, a grilled chicken breast could be offered. You may
          want to substitute chicken or turkey burgers as a replacement for hamburgers.
          Or if cheeseburgers are desired, a low fat cheese may be offered.

       6) Menu fruit and set guidelines on the number of choices to be served at each
          meal. Students voiced complaints about the variety and quality of fruit
          served, but this is easily corrected. Checking boxes and eliminating bad fruit
          will help improve their perceptions..

       7) Offer more non-cream soups. Whether the soups are actually cream based or
          pureed with a minimal amount of fat cannot be determined by the name of the

           soup. Communicating whether soups are cream based or vegetable purees is
           important information that should be shared with students.

Vegetarian Menus

It is estimated that vegetarians encompass about 20% of the population at Smith, with 5%
of the vegetarian population vegans. In addition to the suggestions all ready offered, the
vegetarian selections need to be more varied with additional offerings added. I would
recommend the following:
     1) addition of a whole grain at both lunch and dinner
     2) continue to add a variety of hot legumes or beans at both lunch and dinner
     3) tofu, one legume, and either a nut or seed available on the salad bar daily
     4) offer whole wheat pasta where applicable
     5) investigate additional prepared vegetarian entrees
     6) create new vegetarian recipes which are protein rich and low in fat
     7) have whole grain breads available


Better systems of communicating with students and staff are required. It is imperative
that systems be created to provide a more thorough understanding of who your customers
are. Invite different members of the Smith community to dine in the dining rooms, such
as the Health Services staff, so they can better identify with student food concerns when
they are addressed.

Market Research
Understanding the needs and desires of the students you serve is critical to providing
dining options which will meet with their approval and enthusiasm. According to the
RADS staff, students have not been formally surveyed for over 8 years. It is highly
suggested that a student survey be created which will gather information regarding
student food likes/dislikes, health and diet concerns, hours of operations, and lifestyles.
This information can then be used to update menus and programs consistent with student
requests. I would highly suggest that a survey be created and distributed sometime
before the end of the school year so changes can be implemented prior to the fall term.

Student/Dining Staff Committees

In addition to surveying their customers, most dining service operations create
committees to interface with students on various issues involving dining. Groups such
as these exist at Smith, and are instrumental in providing student feedback on menus and
the dining program. Since not all students are comfortable approaching the kitchen staff
where they dine, alternative approaches to facilitate communication between the kitchen
staff and students should be explored. Internal meetings between the menu planner and
cooks should be held regularly.

Self Promotion

Smith College Residence and Dining Services needs to continue to update its image. The
weekly menu flyers and information brochure could be more visually appealing. This
would require the services of a graphic designer. You may even want to consider
creating a logo for your department. These services are not currently part of the RADS
budget, but many campuses are now allocating funds for marketing, including advertising
and promotion. Many campuses have invested in savvy websites as a means to
communicate with students, prospective students, alumni, and parents. Items previously
offered to students in print, are now included on the web, therefore, decreasing the need
to offer the information in print form. Eliminating items previously printed not only
saves money, but is environmentally responsible. Don’t forget to communicate the
positives about your program. For example, communicate to students you have changed
your cooking oil and that olive oil is used in various applications.

Comment Cards

Student comments provide immediate feedback and give the operator the opportunity to
implement change quickly. Posting the comments with answers usually is of interest to
many students. Using humor helps. If students are reluctant to comment, promotions can
be created to generate interest.

Nutrition Education

Based on my discussions with the Health Services staff, athletic trainers, and students,
nutrition is a hot topic. Disordered eating is common and many students are attempting
to follow weight reduction diets. Fat phobia is rampant, obesity is prevalent, and students
are confused what constitutes normal eating. Students want information regarding the
ingredients in their food, how it is prepared, what constitutes a normal portion, and most
important of all, the nutritional breakdown of food. They want to be assured that the
vegetarian meals contain adequate protein and that they are meeting their nutritional
requirements. The Health Services’ dietitian works with students, but her charter is not
nutrition education.

The nutrition analysis of menu items would be helpful in providing students with
information to make informed decisions regarding the food they consume.
Unfortunately, this is a very time consuming function and must be done by a dietitian.
But since your menu is not extensive, part of the menu, such as entrees, could be
analyzed first. I believe this is a top priority. But before moving forward on the
nutritional analysis, your menu should be revised. Entrees lower in fat should be added,
thus avoiding the possibility that certain high fat menu items previously offered may be
no longer deemed acceptable for consumption by students.
Since a dietitian is not on the Dining staff, nutrition education materials should be
purchased. Many wonderful materials exist and can be purchased inexpensively.


Campus dining hours have been extended on many campuses. Students tend to keep late
hours, and get hungry prior to bedtime. The athletes, through their trainers, complained
that the dining hours were not sufficiently meeting their needs. The lengthening of
dining hours should be explored.


Another popular trend on campuses is takeout. Takeout venues have multiplied, their
popularity soaring due to hectic student schedules. This concept should be explored for
athletes as well as others who have work conflicts that preclude them from dining during
regular operating hours. This option needs further exploration especially for athletes,
who typically miss meals due to games.

Food Shortages

Running out of food towards the end of a meal period is not an uncommon occurrence in
dining operations, but it leaves students angry. The menu and production reports should
be reviewed for accuracy. The new program that was initiated this year should be a
useful tool in planning for production needs. In addition to providing a record for
forecasting, the menu and production reports provide information that can then generate
acceptability factors for all menu items. Acceptability reports are helpful in menu
planning, providing the menu planner with information regarding the popularity of foods


Many of the recommendations, if implemented, would result in additional costs.
Upgrading the menu would likely increase food cost, and additional training of the staff
may be necessary. Since no budget line item exists for market research or for marketing
and promotion, any improvements in this area would need to be funded. Purchasing
nutritional software, and hiring the expertise to analyze recipes would be another expense
that would require funding. Increasing hours of operation would require additional staff.
One must also consider the opportunity costs associated with maintaining a program
largely based on tradition.


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