Dining to be made over
After nearly a year of negotiations, UH System Board of Regents approved a plan Monday to renovate the Moody Towers dining hall.
During the next eight weeks, UH Dining Services will be conducting different forms of research to get student opinions of dining services to better assess changes for the future.
Student Government Association Vice President Jonas Chin said the approval means a total overhaul of the sub-par Moody Towers cafeteria.
‘It’s going to totally redesign the Moody Towers, and it would be complete by fall 2009,’ Chin said. ‘It’s going to change the entire experience. Different dining options, more open seating areas and then a private eating setup.’
This is but one of the dining projects SGA is working on. They also plan to nullify mandatory meal plans and allow the campus-wide use of Cougar Cash including restaurants such as Sonic and McCallister’s.
‘In April 2008, we set goals to change the food services here on campus. We met with University Services and discussed a revamp. Now we’re getting ready to bring a whole new concept to UH,’ Chin said. ‘The surveys that will be going on will help us know what students are thinking and what we need to make sure that they are happy. We plan to have some sort of kickoff within the first week of March.’
Sevelia Johnson, marketing program manager of UH Dining Services, will help conduct intercept surveys around campus’ next week.
She said surveys are one of the many methods UH will use to gather research and information about the UH community.
‘We are conducting intercept surveys next week also. It’s all part of the MarketMATCH process. It’s an exclusive master planning process that lasts for 16 weeks,’ Johnson said. ‘The process consists of chat room discussions, focus groups, online surveys and intercept surveys. Everyday we’ll be in different parts of the campus community.’
Earlier this month, Dining Services gathered research using chat room conversations with UH students. Participants were rewarded with $25 Chili’s Too gift cards. The same will occur with coming focus groups.
‘What we’re doing is ensuring we’re meeting the needs of the students to ensure the right services on campus because dining solutions should mirror the lifestyles of the students,’ Johnson said. ‘We’ll be advertising the focus groups in each academic neighborhood and those who participate will receive a Chili’s Too gift card.’
Another incentive to update dining is UH’s plan to add 2,000 freshman beds to campus by 2011.
Director of Business Services Esmeralda Valdez said the renovations are greatly needed because the Moody Towers is out-of-date.
‘We’re currently looking at a proposal to renovate the Moody Towers to accommodate freshman increase in population because of the new housing project,’ Valdez said. ‘Besides the fact that it’s over 50 years old, a lot of the cooking equipment and infrastructure haven’t changed since it was constructed.’
Along with the renovations, there will be additions to the menu. Dining Services is considering a Mediterranean grill to serve wraps and pitas, a Mongolian grill to serve wok and stir-fry and a fresh bakery.
‘There would still be one set price, but there would be eight mini-restaurants like a food court where they would prepare the food right in front of you,’ Valdez said. ‘Also with the replacement of the kitchen equipment, the kitchen would go from taking up 50 percent of the space to only 30 percent, leaving room for additional spaces. It will add 1,000 square feet for private dining which would be good for organizations to hold meetings.’
This week, University Services has also been making changes of a different color in the UH dining experience. Through the Clean Plate Club and Garbage to Garden programs, that color is green.
The Clean Plate Club is an event officially going on this week that encourages students to think about what they put on their plate at dining services and to be sure they will eat it rather than let it go to waste.
‘We have been giving out information on the amount of food that we waste each year and to tie into that we also have the Garbage to Garden event,’ said Emily Messa, assistant vice president of University Services. ‘Any fruit rinds and food scraps that are non-meat and non-dairy can be placed into a container located where students place their trays and those scraps are recycled as compost.
‘The compost is then placed in the garden over never the Moody Towers and those same vegetables that are grown there are served at Moody Towers.’
Messa said these are only a few of the events that UH will be having because of RecycleMania.
‘RecycleMania is a 10 week competition between colleges across the nation. Each week we weigh the amount of recycled materials we have in comparison to our waste materials and that information is sent to the RecycleMania headquarters. We’re currently ranked in 38th place out of 195.’ Messa said.
Next week, University Services will be highlighting the events they have had so far on campus and educating people on how to be better recyclers.
‘RecycleMania and all that we’re doing is right in line with the same concept that the dining renovations are going toward. That same concept of custom-made and that concept of fresh food is present here,’ Messa said.
For more information on RecycleMania visit the Web site at www.uh.edu/RecycleMania.