Changes in Hinman part of ‘evolution’ of dining program

The Hinman dining hall unrolled a new serving style this quarter, dishing out individual portions instead of continuing with buffet-style.

Melody Song/The Daily Northwestern

The Hinman dining hall unrolled a new serving style this quarter, dishing out individual portions instead of continuing with buffet-style.

Jeanne Kuang, Reporter

As part of nuCuisine’s ongoing efforts to improve resident dining, students who eat regularly at 1835 Hinman started Winter Quarter with a new food serving system.

Instead of serving themselves from buffet-style counters, as they had previously, Hinman diners now choose from pre-arranged plates with individual servings of entrees and sides. The salad bar remains self-serve.

Erich Geiger, operations manager of resident dining, said the change is part of an ongoing “evolution of the dining program” that nuCuisine and food provider Sodexo are implementing at Northwestern. Other adjustments have included an increase in demonstration cooking and a focus on food presentation, hence the new individual plates.

“There’s a level of service that students nowadays have come to expect when they go out to dine,” Geiger said. “We wanted to take the program beyond the straight-line cafeteria and give it much more of a restaurant experience.”

Geiger cited Willard Dining Hall’s restaurant-style ordering system and Foster-Walker Complex’s made-to-order food stations as other efforts to make the dining halls less cafeteria-like.

There are no definitive plans to change the serving styles of all campus dining halls, he said. Instead, the dining managers evaluate the skills of each hall’s workers and student responses from surveys, verbal remarks and online comments to decide where to implement changes.

“We also look at popularity,” Geiger said, calling the current program “the result of student input.”

Diners at Hinman have mixed reactions to the new serving style.

Communication freshman David Brown said although he appreciated the effort to use student input in changing the dining system, he was dissatisfied that students could no longer choose the elements of their own plates.

“As a vegetarian, I feel like it’s somewhat of a pain,” he said, explaining that he dislikes making someone go out of their way to arrange a plate that does not include meat.

Weinberg sophomore Bisola Sosan said she mostly hears unwarranted complaints about students having to go up multiple times to refill their plates.

“When you think about how much less food is wasted, and how the proportions are actually right,” she said. “I think it’s a positive change that we’ll just have to get used to.”

Geiger said the possibility of wasting less food was not a primary reason for instituting the change, because diners have always been free to ask for smaller or larger portions. Instead, the resident dining managers are focused on improving students’ dining experiences.

“What we have found is that students at Northwestern are pretty conscious,” he said. “Our goal is student satisfaction.”