After a rocky start, Food Service Director Sam Currie and the dining staff have worked their way into students’ hearts and, finally, their stomachs.
When Currie and the new Aramark team inherited dining services the University Center was still inaccessible, the kitchen was packed full of storage and the Aramark staff was severely understaffed.
Currie and his staff took the circumstances as a chance to start building more personal relationships with students than Aramark had built in the past. After attending three Student Senate meetings, an open public forum with President Lesley Hallick and four Resident Assistant forums the team had a long list to go off of.
Six months later nearly the entire list has been crossed off and the relationship between the student body and Aramark has changed drastically.
“Sam has been so great to work with,” said Student Body President senior Olin Blackmore. “The Aramark crew this year is the most receptive of any crew I’ve worked with.”
Among the most voiced complaints during fall semester were the inaccessibility to the dining area, healthier options in the POD, allergenic-sensitive options in the Grove, dining hours, traffic and general variety.
When Currie returned to Student Senate Feb. 19, all of these complaints had been addressed with the addition of more fresh fruits and several exhibition items with more to come like strawberry short-cake bars, cookie making bars, a St. Patrick’s-Day themed dinner, and an iron chef competition.
Aramark’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed to students.
“I really like the fresh fruit they’ve had out the last few days,” sophomore McCauley Wilson said. “Last year we never had any fruit. Seeing it made my week.”
Currie said the fruit will be showing up in the POD and the Grove a lot more as the weather warms up.
As a part of building a new atmosphere around dining services, Currie said him and his team have made it a point to reach out to students and build personal relationships with them.
On top of the seven meetings with students Currie has already attended, he said he makes it a priority to keep his door open and say hi to students as they are walking to dinner.
Currie said that while student comments began very negative in the fall, they sparked relationships and friendships and most of the comments toward him now are positive toward Aramark.
“Sam is very reasonable,” said sophomore Patrick Daniels. “I think Aramark is trying their best.”
Even with the improvement Aramark has made, there is still room for improvement, starting with the need for newer and larger facilities.
When the UC was remodeled the kitchen was left untouched, leaving it too small for the capacity of students Aramark is tasked with feeding.
Currie mentioned a time in October when only two stoves were working. While he said that the university has done a great job at repairing and updating the equipment in the kitchen even Hallick admitted the need for a new kitchen at an open forum Feb. 25.
“Honestly I’m really mad at the university for not choosing to update the kitchen when it had the money,” said Wilson. “The food is still better than it was last year though.”
While Aramark has more work to do, Currie and his team have changed the reputation of Aramark on campus and improved the food while they were at it.