Campus Dining Service Update – August 24, 2020
To our Vanderbilt students, parents, and Campus Dining guests,
Since students began arriving back on campus marking the start of the fall 2020 semester, we have received a great deal of feedback regarding our dining program. Some of the top concerns we have heard are; unacceptably long lines and wait times, limited selection, and inconsistent meal quality. Essentially, the nationally-recognized campus dining program at Vanderbilt is not living up to our high standards and your expectations.
Planning for fall 2020 semester meal service began in earnest in the early days of this public health crisis, and the leadership team at Campus Dining has worked hard to build a comprehensive reopening plan for our facilities. From staffing, to logistics and supply chain management, to menu development and implementation, all aspects were considered. Based on our own observations starting Friday, August 21, student traffic patterns did not align with historical data and our projections. Utilization at certain dining halls was more than double that of any projections, and we were unable to meet demand. We have taken the following action:
- We understand many students left our on-campus network over the weekend to purchase food elsewhere, simply due to the long wait times. To compensate our students and families, we are loading a $50 credit to each meal plan holder’s Commodore Cash account. Students can choose to utilize this at any one of our Munchie Marts, Cafes, or Taste of Nashville partners.
- While we pride ourselves on service and selection, it was immediately apparent that any decision points (like customizing a meal) created a bottleneck. This led to unacceptable wait times, 30-60 minutes at some locations. As such, we made the difficult choice to pre-box meals – filling with Global Flavor or Chef’s Table options, along with Vegan/Vegetarian choices for each platform. The result to this change has been a significant increase in capacity and decrease in wait times.
- Our culinary staff is taking a fresh look at menus, attempting to simplify when possible, and developing appealing options that are both quick to prepare and popular with students. These menus will be loaded into our NetNutrition site when ready, and can be viewed online at vu.edu/menus or by scanning the QR codes at our dining locations.
- Starting with dinner service tonight – and continuing each weeknight this week, we’re serving personal pizzas at both the Commons and E. Bronson Ingram Grab and Go stations. Sides will include a fresh piece of fruit and beverage. This will allow us to gauge interest in this offering and help us to assess future program adjustments.
- Starting Tuesday, August 25, we’ll be featuring a rotating hot entrée from a different Taste of Nashville partner each weeknight this week. As a reminder, students can dine at nearly 40 different Nashville-area restaurants using their Meal Money or Commodore Cash.
- PickupSpots (pop-up locations in academic and residential buildings) opened for service today, in addition to Suzie’s Cafes and Grin’s Vegetarian Café (available for preorder on the GET app).
- Food trucks will be on campus every weekday, beginning Monday, September 7. Students can use Meal Money or Commodore Cash to purchase some of Nashville’s best street food.
- Finally, we are close to announcing a partnership with a national food delivery service that students will be able to access with their Commodore Card, using Commodore Cash.
This is a semester like no other, and despite our best efforts, managing to maintain our own high standards has proven to be especially difficult. We expect excellence, and we share your frustration. Please know that the 300+ team members of Vanderbilt Campus Dining are working diligently each day to improve service, and to regain your trust.
Serving exceptional food with extraordinary safety is our pledge to you, and we’ll make it our mission to deliver on that promise.
We appreciate your patience and understanding, and can’t wait until we can be together again, enjoying a meal in our dining halls. Or at least a warm Rand cookie.