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Simmons Faces Dining Problems

By Jenny Zhang


Simmons Hall Dining has encountered numerous problems over the last week, including running out of food and generally low food quality, students said.

Simmons began to have problems last week when food that was supposed to last until 8:00 ran out at 7:15, leaving many students hungry. Food quality, which Simmons students said they had been satisfied with at the beginning of the semester, has been fluctuating as well.

Simmons held a house meeting on Sunday, during which the dining issue was discussed.

“One of the solutions we came up with was to have the register at the end of the food, so that students will take less and could be charged for taking too much,” said Sameera S. Ponda ’03, chair of the House Committee.

Originally, diners helped themselves to meals, taking essentially as much as they wished. Servers were brought in to control the portion sizes, Ponda said.

The move to place the register after the serving area took place yesterday.

“We have a very unique situation to be addressed here, and we see the issues. I think we have corrected the problems,” said Kathie Harwell, General Manager for Bon Appetit, the company that runs residential dining programs at MIT.

“It can never be as good as having the meal cooked in the building. Bon Appetit has responded aggressively to the food shortage and quality complains,” said Richard D. Berlin III, director of campus dining.

Communication strengthened

“Bon Appetit has been very responsive and quick to address our problems with food running out,” said Phillip J. Walsh, Director of Campus Activities Complex. “I have met with some of their representatives from other colleges to discuss this.”

“One of the difficulties had to do with communication with Next House, where the food is produced. Appropriate procedure was not followed; they recognize this. Richard [Berlin], Ward [Ganger], and I have been here at Simmons Dining to see how things are going,” Walsh said.

“Our primary concern has always been quality, and Bon Appetit was attractive to us because of its strength in this area,” Walsh said.

Concerns about Bon Appetit staff

Many feel the staff is should not blamed for Simmons’ dining problems.

Simmons Housemaster John Essigmann said that Bon Appetit realized that it was losing money and fired much of its serving staff as a result.

“We’re kind of upset about this because they’ve been nice and really accommodating ... Simmons wants to investigate this action, and possibly put them on paid leave,” Ponda said.

“The staff was well-liked by the Simmons community in general. It made an effort to please,” Essigmann said.

“It is extremely difficult to balance staffing, food quality, and costs, but we find it important to have a dining service at Simmons regardless of this. Our goal with this was to help build community, and I see that happening,” Essigmann said.

Simmons has unique system

Simmons Hall does not currently have its own dining facility. As a temporary solution, Bon Appetit, the dormitory food service provider, brings meals from Next House and serves them in a second-floor hallway.

The dining facilities, originally anticipated to be complete in November, are now expected be finished next semester.

All Simmons residents pay a $200 fee to cover dining worker wages. Residents pay $3.50 for a meal, and nonresidents pay $7.00. Most dormitories do not have such fees, though some house fees go toward subsidizing dining services.