Sodexo held focus group dinners on Monday, October 8, and Tuesday, October 9, to ask questions of under- and upperclassmen, respectively. The dinners were free to attend for those interested, serving as a way for RPI’s food service provider to gather more direct student feedback than they acquire through the surveys they send out.
The complimentary meal included rice, a pasta and broccoli dish, biscuits with butter, slices of cake for dessert, and more. To drink were water and various sodas. As participants dug in, Sodexo’s representatives engaged in conversation, asking various questions about the attendees’ eating habits, opinions of the offered meal plans and dining locations on campus, etc. The upperclassmen were asked a large number of questions devoted to things like, “Do you still have a meal plan? If not, why not?” or, “What options could Sodexo add to existing meal plans to encourage you to consider enrolling in one?”
Other questions asked students to rate the dining halls, including BARH Dining Hall and Blitman Residence Commons, and to state their favorite and least favorite aspects of eating at these locations. Ideas for additional options for eating on campus were solicited, and attendees were asked which non-dining-hall locations they liked or would like to see replaced with these additional options, as well as where on campus they would prefer these options be located.
Student responses to most of these questions were widely varied. On the issue of meal plans, many said that the reason they no longer had one was that buying their own food was cheaper, or more convenient for those who live off-campus. As for options that would entice the participants to re-enroll, smaller, less expensive plans were suggested, along with incentives for spending Flex dollars to make it more efficient than buying with cash. When the dining hall rating questions arose, just about every possible answer was given; some liked The Commons Dining Hall, some Blitman Residence Commons, some Russell Sage Dining Hall, and some BARH Dining Hall. Suggested options for additional dining venues on campus included everything from breakfast places, such as IHOP and Denny’s, to moving establishments from downtown Troy up onto the hill.
When asked what improvements they would make to the existing dining programs, students responded with ideas such as additional operating hours for dining locations, increased quality and variety of food, more vegetarian options, and even a delivery service. The final question was, “In as few words as possible, what does healthy mean to you?” Responses varied from “fruits and vegetables” to “moderation” to “not deep fried.”
The Sodexo representatives closed by thanking the students for their time and handing out $15 gift cards for Sodexo dining locations.