By Abel Valencia
Following months of in-depth research and analysis – including a massive data collection effort that placed a heavy emphasis on the opinions of University of Houston students – a bold new vision for transforming campus dining has been unveiled.
UH Dining Services, in collaboration with Auxiliary Services and University leadership, developed the five-year plan, which will modernize the dining program while balancing the diverse needs of the growing campus population.
“We are excited to announce this transformative visionary approach of UH Dining Services, which showcases the long-term plan of strategic alignment to better serve our valued customers and meet the needs of continued growth in enrollment anticipated across the campus community,” said Auxiliary Services Executive Director Neil Hart.
UH Dining Services’ District Manager David Riddle of Chartwells Higher Education, a key partner in this ongoing collaborative journey, said this forward-thinking approach is reflective of constructive feedback from informative focus groups, targeted research and data gathering across key stakeholder groups.
“It’s all in an effort toward continuous improvement and a best practice methodology to not only meet but exceed our customers’ expectations of overall excellence,” Riddle said.
The UH Dining Vision Plan is posted online for anyone to access. Updates will be provided every semester and on an annual basis.
It proposes ambitious changes to campus dining, including several large projects that will play a significant role in transforming the program. These include replacing the dining operations currently hosted in the Student Center Satellite with a new food hall-type venue, as well as building a new, state-of-the-art dining commons to replace Moody Dining Commons.
“Our current dining locations are too limited in number and don’t necessarily offer the variety our guests want,” said Riddle. “The insights we gained through the planning process prove we need to make some changes to keep up with the demands of our campus.”
The majority of the changes detailed in the plan will take place within the Central District. The new dining venue will have a food-hall type atmosphere and offer local brands and more ethnic cuisine and create a trendy space for guests to dine, as well as offer scenic views, meeting spaces and an art gallery.
Moody Dining Commons – UH’s most frequented dining location – will be replaced with a stand-alone dining commons to serve all of the campus residential communities. It will have a modernized interior and atmosphere, as well as more space and seating to accommodate the UH community.
Other proposals include incorporating food venues in future buildings, refreshing many of the existing dining venues and replacing underperforming locations with new concepts.
Work on the strategic vision plan kicked off in energetic fashion in the spring semester with surveys, focus groups, meetings with campus stakeholders and data collection from third-party research firms. It was a massive undertaking that provided valuable insight into the dining program's strengths and shortfalls. A major emphasis was placed on looking at the current and future dining operations through the perspective of students and what they want – and don’t want – in a campus dining program.
“It’s an exciting time to be part of the changing dining landscape here at UH,” said Riddle. “The hard work that was involved in collecting data and researching trends provided an abundance of valuable information that was key to constructing a well-thought-out vision for the future.”