Courtyard Café offers healthier menu options

by Julian Nathan | 1/30/18 2:00am

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by Michael Lin / The Dartmouth Staff

Last fall, Dartmouth Dining Services implemented a series of changes to the menus at the Courtyard Café. While DDS director Jon Plodzik said that his organization made the changes to improve students’ experiences, a survey conducted by The Dartmouth from Jan. 22 to Jan. 29 through Pulse reveals that 52.2 percent of the 901 student respondents — a majority — reported feeling very or somewhat dissatisfied with menu changes at the café at press time. Only 12.9 percent of respondents indicated that they were very or somewhat satisfied with the changes.

One of the most obvious changes at the Courtyard Café was the replacement of the sandwich and burrito station with the Gathering Greens salad bar. The bar — which Plodzik said has already sold 13,000 salads — was introduced to provide students with healthier dining options. However, only 30.1 percent of respondents reported feeling very or somewhat satisfied with the salad bar, and 36.2 percent of respondents reported feeling very or somewhat dissatisfied. Furthermore, 45.2 percent of respondents indicated that they ate at the sandwich and burrito station at least “sometimes,” or about once per week, while it existed. Only 30.4 percent of students surveyed said the same for the new salad bar.

The sandwich and burrito station also appeared to have more regular customers than does the salad bar: 8.8 percent of respondents indicated that they ate at the sandwich and burrito station three or more times per week, and 13.9 percent of respondents indicated they ate there two to three times per week. For the salad bar, these figures were only 5.6 percent of respondents and 9.4 percent of respondents, respectively.

Nathan Camilo ’21 remarked that the salad bar felt out of place at the café.

“It’d be weird to go Wendy’s for a salad, and that’s sort of how I feel about the [Courtyard Café],” he said.

Tyler Neath ’21 echoed this sentiment.

“I don’t think of the [Courtyard Café] as a place to get healthy food,” he said.

DDS associate director Don Reed noted that students initially pushed back against some changes, such as the new “Grateful Burger,” which contains mushroom to reduce the burger’s fat content and carbon footprint.

“I’m not a big fan of the [Grateful Burger],” Neath said.

However, Reed said he now observes long lines at the Courtyard Café, and he interprets this to mean that students have come around to new ideas.

Camilo also observed long lines at the Courtyard Café, but said he believes they are due to staffing shortages.

“It takes a while to get food at the [Courtyard Café] … there are not a lot of cooks there and lines are very long,” he said.

DDS has also started to purchase prepackaged cups of fruit instead of slicing fruit on-site to save on time and labor expenses, Plodzik said. However, the price of fruit cups per ounce has not decreased, so it appears these savings have not been passed on to customers. Despite this, Neath sees a silver lining to the prepackaged cups.

“I see more and more varieties of fruit cups,” he said.

Reed said that although initial estimates of the cost of renovations at the Courtyard Café hovered at around $25,000, actual costs have reached the $30,000 to $35,000 range.

Plodzik added that DDS staff have filled out an expansion survey distributed by the College administration and identified potential strategies to reduce the possibility of overflow that a larger student body might create. According to Plodzik, DDS might use faster equipment, new venues, a larger staff or a combination of these adjustments to accommodate a potential increase in the size of the student body.