Shepherdstown, W.Va., – Last week, The Picket released an article that spread through the campus like wildfire. Cynthia Kline’s article, “Shepherd University Overcharges Yet Under-Serves” was highly viewed and commented on. This notoriety not only garnered the attention of the student body, but the administration as well.
Head of Dining Services, Jack Shaw, reached out for an interview with The Picket to clarify some information and possibly shed a light on any other misconceptions the student body may have.
Firstly, there are a few remedies to the equation used to calculate the cost. Originally, we claimed that meals cost about $5 to make. However, it seems the answer is a little complicated.
On average, each tray will contain about $3.50 worth of food, but that only accounts for 33 percent of the actual cost. As can be seen in the following chart, there are other overhead charges that need to be covered.
And the pandemic has only increased those costs.
Since the closing of D-Hall, the popular dining hall, Riverside, has taken in most of the business. However, with little fridge and freezer space and an almost non-existent prep-room, the staff is finding it difficult to accommodate so many people.
Much of the food served at both Riverside and Rams Den are prepared in the closed off D-hall. Rams Den doesn’t necessarily have the equipment to handle larger meal items.
This in turn, adds cost to overhead as they are needing to prepare and ship food across campus while ensuring it stays warm.
However, with fewer students dining on-campus, these additional costs are causing a deficit. With the total projected loss being up to 10 percent for the fiscal year, as seen below.
That being said, our previous article called into question the general quality of Shepherd food. According to our Niche score, Shepherd ranks at a C+, which is our lowest score.
Perhaps shockingly, Shepherd has seen rises in general satisfaction with our new vendor, Armark.
The previous vendor faced such staunch opposition that Shepherd administration nullified their contract to sign on with Armark. When asked about the overall rise in satisfaction Shaw said, “We are optimistic that our [satisfaction] rates will keep increasing, as well.”
Our general food ‘tastiness’ didn’t seem to be the only issue though. As Reese Gabriella said, “It’s [the food] okay. I just wish they had more of a variety.”
Variety seems to be a general concern for the student body, whether it be through becoming bored of the hottest dining item, tenders and fries, or health related reasons like Suzi Celano, “I would like more of a variety because I have stomach issues.”
Having options seems to be of paramount concern for Shepherd students, and fortunately this is an issue dining services is addressing. After hearing feedback through surveys Shepherd Dining Services began ‘Theme Thursdays’ where there’d be a new, interesting option each Thursday. The steak and potatoes night in particular seemed to draw in quite the ravenous crowd.
It seems that the larger issue is that most students are going through the Riverside grill, which has already established issues, and overlooking theme nights, as well as the food brought over from Rams Den in the evenings.
Unfortunately for some students, such as Olivia Stevens and her roommates, “My roommates and I miss having rams den open for dinner…”
The Rams Den was closed for dinners because of low traffic into the dining hall. Instead, dining services decided on moving and consolidating Rams Den dining options into the front of Riverside, in order to boost trays served. A tactic that seems to have been effective so far.
The issue plaguing Shepherd Dining Services the most is communication. An issue that they looked inwards to solve. They found their solution, or at least a path to solution, through Shepherd student and marketing intern for Dining Services, Kimberly Rodriguez.
Kimberly Rodriguez has been part of the team for about six months now and has been leading the charge in student engagement. From heading survey pushes to general advertisement, Rodriguez has been overseeing the entire process. A process it seems, is more difficult than it would appear.
On student engagement and attention to public postings Rodriguez said, “Communication is definitely a big issue but from my time being an intern it’s been clear that students don’t read any signage we post no matter how redundant we are or how big we make flyers.”
Being a commuter and student at Shepherd, Rodriguez said she was the same before becoming part of the dining team. She did not read or notice a lot of the signs or posters around the school.
“When starting this job, I believed I could help this issue that has been occurring for a while now… I had some ideas on how to get students to become more aware of what we do and our meal options, but it has not been so easy,” noted Rodriguez.
Shepherd is trying to put in the work: through survey pushes, student engagement, and reaching out to The Picket to alleviate the student bodies concerns. It’s now on us, the student body, to engage with the postings, signage, and other marketing pushes.
It seems the answer for the general student concerns is, let’s go to Ram’s Den, where they serve more than just tenders and fries. Are there other issues? Certainly, but we cannot address them honestly until we acknowledge the strides towards positive change that have happened.
Even Cynthia Kline, writer of the previous article, has also had a slight change of mind, “I didn’t realize how much overhead went into it. The meetings with Jack were definitely enlightening.”
So, if variety is what you’re after make sure to check out the latest dining hours (left) to maximize your experience from Shepherd Dining Services!