From gelato to Mexican food, from a Brazilian grill to a cheeseburger, the University of Utah has been diversifying its culinary experience over the past years. With 20 food service locations across campus and eight rotating food trucks, students, faculty and staff find many eating options today.
As is typical for major college campuses, the U dining halls are one of the most visited locations. On the upper campus, United Table, on the second floor of the Peterson Heritage Center (PHC), is a traditional style of service with modern components such as a Brazilian grill. The menu structure in this location features a weekly rotation of international cuisines at each station. On the lower campus, Urban Bytes at Kahlert Village is designed to be a city street with different restaurant concepts, including international cuisines and “The Game,” a sports grill-themed station that won best residential dining concept by Food Service Magazine.
Both dining halls feature a “Delicious Without” station, which avoids using the nine most common allergens—milk, eggs, nuts, fish, crustaceans, shellfish, wheat, soy and sesame, providing a safe eating option for those with food allergies and dietary restrictions.
It’s all about the choices
Eating at the dining hall is not always the norm for many students. For those who prefer “on the go” meals, Crimson Corner in PHC, the Miller Café in Lassonde Studios and the Marriott Honors Market are convenient spots for coffee, sandwiches, salads, flatbreads, smoothies and more.
“I absolutely love the grab-and-go meal options on campus, especially from the Marriott Honors Community market,” explained Hannah Anderson, a first-year student majoring in psychology, sociology and criminology. “I live in Kahlert Village, so it’s really convenient for me to run in there and grab some food in between classes, before the gym or if I need some study fuel.”
In addition to dining halls and convenience stores/markets, the university has several culinary offerings at the Student Union Building, including Einstein Bros Bagels, Shake Smart and Panda Express.
“Swipes are traditionally used at the dining halls, but these meal swipes can also be used at specific retail locations (see map),” said Chuck Weaver, director of Dining Services. “Users can use Transfer meals to purchase traditional meals, but also have the flexibility to get beverages, snacks, or other grocery style items.”
More options for transfer meals include City Edge Café with handcrafted coffee drinks, pastries and house-made gelato; and Crimson View, a seated-quick serve restaurant on the fourth floor of the Union building that serves popular dishes like Cajun pasta, salmon salad and French dip sandwich.
Feedback to continuously improve
As part of the Housing and Residential Education (HRE) annual Student Satisfaction Survey, residents have the opportunity to provide feedback regarding the food, facilities and service.
“Student feedback is crucial to the success of our dining program at the U,” explained Sean Grube, associate vice president of Housing & Residential Education. “It is important for us to understand how students are using their meal plan, what we’re doing well, and how we can improve campus dining. Each fall, we evaluate satisfaction through the Residential Satisfaction Survey (RSS) and other benchmarking surveys, and the data we glean from these tools helps to inform the direction of campus dining for the future.”
Dining Services also conducts “Voice To Vision,” a confidential survey to receive feedback regarding their dining experience at the U. The data collected guides the dining operations, including adding services, changing processes and more.
“We paid special attention to the feedback we received,” said David Ko, associate director of Dining Services at HRE. “From the last assessment, it was clear that students value the variety of menu options and faster food options. Today, our newest location, Lund Commons, in the C. Roland Christensen Center features a complete grill menu, build-your-own salads and sandwiches, and a wide variety of grab-and-go items.”
Based on the feedback received, Dining Services has worked with the culinary teams to schedule more frequent menu rotations, specials and limited-time offerings. Additionally, Dining Services is implementing better practices to speed up production and offer more available walk-up food entrées.
Besides formal annual assessments, Dining Services presented last year ‘Text 2 Chat,’ an innovative way to gather students’ feedback regarding their dining experience at the U via text messages. Users can ask questions, send comments and make suggestions by texting to the number 801-441-3639.
The Impact and Prosperity Epicenter will open in the fall of 2024. The building will have a hybrid food market with hot ready-to-eat meals, cold grab-and-go options and DIY meal kits for in-room meal prep. The location will also feature a hot menu of traditional grill items with a weekly rotating menu featuring cuisines from around the world and a full coffee bar.
With the growing student population at the U, the goal is to continue with the meal plan flexibility and expand the transfer meal catalog to include other retail locations and national brands. Listening to students, faculty and staff is a priority. In January, Campus Planning invited to participate in a short survey about the future of dining services at the University of Utah. The input from the campus community will help the U understand the need for additional dining services as the campus continues to grow and improve dining options.