Planning college campus visits? Evaulation its on-site dining

Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 16:45 PM.

• Is there a centralized dining hall or commons, or are food locations scattered?A dining-learning commons is the living room of the campus, a place where students come together and pause long enough to meet, talk, make friends, see and be seen, relax, study and collaborate. “These are all vital not only to bonding but to learning how to socialize with fellow students from a wide variety of backgrounds in a neutral environment,” Porter says. “That provides once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to develop and nurture valuable networking skills for their personal and future professional lives. If the meal plan encourages them to scatter across campus – or go off campus – to pick up fast foods eaten in isolation, vital opportunities are lost.”

• What are the hours of operation?Students live on a different clock than most of us.   For many students, 11 p.m. is the middle of the day. Is the dining-learning commons open, thus respecting and being conducive to their (not our) lifestyle? If so, does it offer more than microwave pizza and hot dogs? This will offer a social and safe on-campus environment, Porter says. “If the place isn’t open when they’re hungry, they’ll go elsewhere.” 

• How far is the dining hall from dorms and the academic core of campus?“I once consulted with a university that was mystified about why two dining halls got lots of student traffic, while the third – the most beautiful -- was largely ignored,” Porter says. “When I visited, I discovered the dining hall had been built on top of a rather steep hill on the far edge of campus. The location offered great views, but the climb was a bear!” Dining halls should be within easy reach of both dorms and classroom buildings in the academic core or students simply won’t use them.

David Porter, author and social architect, is CEO and president of Porter Khouw Consulting, Inc., a foodservice master planning and design firm based in Crofton, Maryland. He is the author of “The Porter Principles, Retain & Recruit Students & Alumni, Save Millions on Dining and Stop Letting Food Service Contractors Eat Your Lunch."



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