By Lauren Somers
Alright everyone, let’s settle this debate. Which is better: Huffman or Curtis? The March 2017 survey asked the question: “Where is the best place to eat on campus?” and included options for Curtis, Huffman, Slayter, and “My Room.” Due to new regulations, Slayter is not on the menu for 2018. The result show that a majority of people felt Huffman was the better option between the two dining halls, but nearly ties with the “My Room” option, both with around 45 percent of responses. Curtis falls far behind both of these options with only about 8 percent of responses favoring Curtis over Huffman. This survey went out right before the Curtis renovation so it makes sense that it would be the loser for 2017 but what about now? Post makeover, how does Curtis stack up in 2018?
While Curtis did make a comeback in 2018, it still trails far behind Huffman. In the fall 2018 survey, we asked again about dining preferences but this time included options for Huffman, Curtis, and Neither. The neither option serves as an option for students, namely seniors, who do not have a meal plan and primarily eat off campus (actually juniors average slightly more off-campus eating, but both around 2.5 days a week). In this year’s results, we can see that Curtis has now jumped to 25 percent of the responses while Huff remains at about 46 percent of responses; ‘neither’ beats Curtis with 28 percent. This increase is probably due to the renovations on Curtis, which undoubtedly improved the quality of dining. Even with renovations, students still prefer Huffman.
All this talk about dining halls also brings up the feelings surrounding our dining provider: Bon Appetit. Bon Appetit joined the Denison community just before my Freshman year (2015) and has been controversial ever since. Bon Appetit claims to source their ingredients from local farms and works towards sustainable dining options but many students complain about the food and food provider. These feelings were often presented to DCGA when I was a Senator and have become a hot topic on campus. It’s time for a more systematic look.
In October 2018, students were asked to rate their feelings about Bon Appetit from 1 to 100, with 1 being cold feelings towards the provider and 100 being warm feelings. From the results of this question we can gather that most people actually don’t feel one way or the other about Bon Appetit. Looking above we can see that most people reported feelings of about 50 towards Bon Appetit, which is neutral. Should people feel more warm towards Bon Appetit? It is hard to make everyone love your services but the standard should probably be more than a shoulder shrug. It seems like Bon Appetit would value a much warmer response from the Denison community, but then again neutral does not necessarily make you a failing service on campus.
However, this sentiment seems to be linked to how often students eat off-campus. For those who do not feel warmly towards Bon Appetit, eating off-campus becomes a vital part of their Denison experience. Below I have compared the feelings that people have about Bon Appetit to the amount they eat off campus. The results of this analysis show that people who feel cold towards Bon Appetit (those who do not like them), are significantly more likely to eat off campus – on average 1 more day a week. This makes a lot of sense since those who do not feel like Bon Appetit serves their needs have to eat something, right? So their only choices are to eat food they don’t want or go elsewhere for sustenance. This drives many Denisonians off-campus for food, and probably drives a big hole in their pockets seeing as meal plans are required as well.
What we’re seeing here is a a reinforcement of the current conversation about Bon Appetit. People care about their food provider, enough so that they are willing to pay for both a meal plan and off-campus dining because of how much they do not approve of Bon Appetit. We are also seeing that efforts by Bon Appetit to improve our dining spaces, like they did with Curtis, can improve how people see them. Although Huffman still reigns champion of the dining halls, Curtis is quickly approaching number one. I am interested to see how these results change over the next few years as the Curtis renovations set in and Bon Appetit adapts to student requests.
Lauren Somers is a Senior Political Science Major with an interest in gender theory and polarization. When she is not huddled in her room napping she can be found in the Knapp lab analyzing endless data and eating pita chips.