Because of inconsistent food quality, low attendance, and high costs, the MacGregor Dining Pilot Program ceased operations as of Tuesday. The program, which served dinner in MacGregor weekly, was instated to test the potential for a full-service dining hall in the dormitory. The program suffered from a $7500 deficit last semester in food and labor costs.
Participation in the program had steadily declined since its inception in 2006, largely due to decreasing food quality. According to a report provided by MacGregor Housemaster Munther A. Dahleh, only about ten percent of student residents ate dinner there on any given week.
In its first year, the program was popular, with close to one hundred students participating each week. In the second year, however, food quality dropped, causing attendance to drop as well. “Once you have a bad experience,” said Dahleh, “the students don’t come back.” The MacGregor president that year, Kristen M. Felch ’09, tried to phase out the program without success.
It was not phased out until recently-elected MacGregor president Raul Garcia ’10 made a final decision to end the pilot program last January. Garcia described the quality of the food as a dice roll. From cold leftovers to forgotten menu items, Garcia agreed with many residents that the program needed to end.
Since MacGregor House lacks a sizable kitchen, Au Bon Pain catered the program, preparing food from outside kitchens. This presented challenges for the caterers, who were not adequately equipped to provide fresh food for the two hours of service.
Dahleh promoted the program not only because it provided easy access to food, but also because he believed it would increase community within MacGregor House. “My family and myself, the associate housemasters, and many of the GRTs regularly ate there.” He hoped that a new dining hall would give students a place to socialize and relax.
To replace the program, Garcia, Dahleh, and other MacGregor representatives are coming up with new ideas to provide better food and increase community within the residence.
One idea is to subsidize a weekly meal for MacGregor residents at an outside dining facility like Baker Dining. Garcia also described the idea of offering hot food options at MacGregor Convenience. This idea, however, would require negotiation with the 660 Corporation, which owns several convenience stores around Boston including LaVerdes Market. At this point, however, no projects are underway to replace the pilot dining program.
The program offered an all-you-can-eat buffet-style meal for $8, or $4 for Preferred Dining subscribers.
The proposed dining hall would have been a multi-million-dollar, 6-month renovation that would have required MacGregor residents to enroll in MIT’s Preferred Dining program.