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Updates on dining from the VP for Campus Planning and Operations

In an email exchange with The Brandeis Hoot, Brandeis’ Vice President for Campus Planning and Operations Lois Stanley gave insight into Harvest Table’s operations over the first few weeks of the fall semester.

Stanley mentioned that there were some “growing pains in addressing and overcoming the challenges in transitioning a campus dining operation where thousands of students eat multiple times per day from one food service vendor to another. Some challenges were to be expected but others challenges were significantly exacerbated by the labor market and supply chain issues coming out of the pandemic.” 

Stanley cited staffing, technology and kitchen turnover as examples of these difficulties. She explained why the staffing transition hasn’t been easy: “a lot of time was (and still is) needed for hiring and training both management and union staff; there are still many open positions.” Stanley also mentioned that the technological changeover between two companies had its difficulties too: “the technology behind multiple systems like the robot deliveries, the menu displays, mobile ordering, catering orders, etc. needed to shift from Sodexo’s systems to Harvest Table’s, all linking through Brandeis’ network. That wasn’t easy, even with a lot of help from Brandeis ITS.” Finally, she discussed the details of kitchen turnover: “there is minimal to no turnover time of the kitchens between food service vendors. For example, Harvest Table needed to supply and serve food two weeks after assuming control of the Usdan kitchen.” 

Stanley also wrote that Brandeis and Harvest Table will work together through these problems. “Harvest Table leadership and Brandeis leadership (in University Services, Finance, Campus Ops, IT, Communications, Student Affairs, etc) have been and will continue working together to address issues as they come up, while also building our ongoing relationship. This is a significant and highly worthwhile investment of our collective time, energy, and resources,” she added.

Several parts of Brandeis’ administration have been working in conjunction with Harvest Table, and “it’s nearly an all-hands-on-deck for Campus Ops,” Stanley added, “University Services allocates nearly all of its time to the many details of this transition; University Events partners with Harvest Table on matters relating to events; Capital Programs is advising Harvest Table on potential renovation plans; Sustainability is already a close partner with Harvest Table’s sustainability lead; and Facilities Services has been on call for needed repairs …. Brandeis Information Technology Services was an enormous help in getting the many technology-based systems operational on our network with a mix of the software Harvest Table brought to Brandeis … and software that we already use …. Student Affairs shares student and parent feedback directly with Harvest Table and University Services for follow up.”

Stanley also specified how student feedback is processed, writing that “feedback gathered through the napkin wall, two portals on the Brandeis Hospitality website, and email is reviewed daily by the Harvest Table team and shared with University Events. Together (and with the help of other Brandeis groups as needed), they investigate the feedback, resolve problems as needed, and follow up (if there is contact info).” She also mentioned that feedback from the chosen “students and representatives from Brandeis Hospitality and University Events” on the Dining Committee will begin being collected next month.

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