Institute Dining Review
Interim Report

December 17, 1996

Table of Contents

  1. Members
  2. Purpose and Background
  3. Roles of the Members of the Institute Dining Review
  4. Project Description
  5. Status Report
  6. Results to Date
  7. Appendix

1. Members

Food Service Working Group Members

Advisory Board Members

Appointments to be made: Minority Community representative, Graduate Student Council representative, Dormitory Council representative, IFC representative, Faculty representative, Support Staff representative, Service Staff representative.

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2. Purpose and Background


Purpose: To develop a framework for all aspects of campus dining that will satisfy the needs and desires of the MIT Community.

Definition of framework: A general description of what dining should look like at MIT. It describes "big-picture" facets of a dining system, to include issues such as whether we should have a single contractor, multiple contractors, or another system for providers; what sorts of residential dining programs should be supported; how the complete dining system should be financed; etc.


The Institute Dining Review results largely from the work of the 1995-96 Committee on Student Affairs, which recommended the formation of a dining review group in its February 1996 report "Initial Report on Housing and Food Services at MIT." The report recommended the creation of a Food Service Working Group and an Advisory Board to oversee the group. The report also listed a series of objectives for the dining program, including (1) fostering citizenship development, (2) keeping the cost of on-campus food low, (3) providing nutritious food, (4) providing quick and convenient sources of food, and (5) providing opportunities for students to socialize and build a sense of community.

After the report was distributed, the Committee had a series of conversations with Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind Williams and Senior Vice President William Dickson. As a result of these conversations, a Food Service Working Group was formed using the Committee's recommendations as a guide, and began meeting in June.

Scope Statement

Based on the work of the Committee on Student Affairs, the Dining Review Working Group wrote the Review's scope statement over the summer of 1996. This Statement is a formal description of what the Institute Dining Review is to achieve. It describes the purpose of the Dining Review, the deliverables of the project (tangible items the Review will produce -- in particular, a new framework for campus dining), and the objectives the Review's deliverables are to meet.


The purpose of this Institute Dining Review is to develop a new framework for campus-wide dining that will satisfy the needs and desires of the MIT Community.

This project will achieve its results by:

  1. Conducting a detailed analysis of the current food service situation at MIT, and of the requirements for a sucessfull MIT food service.
  2. Developing and considering a variety of food service models for MIT.
  3. Engaging the MIT Community throughout the process to determine what its needs are, and which food service models it prefers.


The major deliverables of the project are:

  1. An interim report that includes the following: (1) The current state of MIT food service and justifications for the current model. (2) The requirements and "desirables" of MIT food service. (3) Information about any food service models discovered by the committee to date. (4) A plan to involve the MIT Community in making decisions about the future of MIT food service.
  2. Metrics that will determine how well the new food service model is meeting the objectives listed below.
  3. A formal statement relating campus dining to the educational mission of MIT.
  4. A final report that includes the points above plus an implementation plan for a new model of food service that meets the objectives listed below.
  5. A "Request for Proposals" (RFP) that meets the requirements of the new food service model described in the Final Report. (RFPs are formal guidelines for would-be MIT food service providers.)
  6. After-action reports that include measures of community satisfaction with both the new food service model and the process by which the model was determined.


The project's objectives are to develop a food service model that:

  1. Meets the educational and community-building requirements of dining as determined by the Working Group.
  2. Encourages student responsibility, participation, and the development of citizenship skills.
  3. Provides a variety of good, tasty, and nutritious food at reasonable prices.
  4. Is convenient to the MIT Community in terms of hours of operation and location.
  5. Will keep house dining rooms open.
  6. Will convert areas around the Institute into comfortable places where the MIT Community can gather to eat lunch (and other meals).
  7. Will not lose money.
  8. Will satisfy at least 75% of the MIT Community by July 1, 1998.

In addition, the project seeks to use a process to develop the new food service model that will satisfy at least 75% of those who participated in it.

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3. Roles of the Members of the Institute Dining Review

The Working Group

The Working Group shall be made up of appointees of the Committee on Student Affairs, the Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, and the Senior Vice President for Operations. As such, the members shall serve as arbiters seeking to help the community develop a food service model that will serve the needs of the entire community; they shall not act as representatives for a particular interest. The Group should meet at least once per week.

Members of the Working Group shall be responsible for doing most of the procedural work of the Institute Dining Review. This will include:

The Advisory Board

The membership of the board shall be made up of representatives listed by the Committee on Student Affairs plus any other representatives the Working Group finds useful.

Members of the Advisory Board will serve as "experts" to the Institute Dining Review. Further, they will link to "key agencies" in the MIT Community that have an interest in campus dining. They will receive regular updates from the Working Group which will include:

The Advisory Board will then advise the Working Group on ways to carry out the goals of the Institute Dining Review. In particular, the Board should:

The Review expects that Board members will provide regular updates to the groups they represent.

Community Involvement Group

The Community Involvement Group (CIG) will be open to any member of the MIT Community interested in serving on it. The Dining Review will make an effort to recruit students, faculty, and staff to the CIG. The CIG should meet every 3-4 weeks and will attend several brief training sessions.

The CIG will serve as the primary liaison between the MIT Community at large and the Institute Dining Review. Its duties will include the following:

During this phase, we expect that CIG members will provide their colleagues with regular updates on the work of the Review, and that CIG members will provide the Review with timely and accurate summaries of their colleagues opinions.

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4. Project Description

General Description

The Institute Dining Review will have three distinct phases.

The first phase, to be held over the summer and the beginning of the fall term, will determine the needs and wants of the MIT Community concerning a new dining framework. The second phase, which will occur during the remainder of the fall term, will have the MIT Community design a new dining system. The third phase, which will take place during IAP and the beginning of the Spring term, will see the "detailed" implementation of the new system.

First Phase

During the first phase, the Working Group and the Advisory Board will:

  1. Study the current dining situation at MIT.
  2. Study the results of previous efforts to improve campus dining.
  3. Contact members of the MIT Community to find out what the Community wants in its campus dining service.
  4. From parts 1 to 3, compile the information we learn into a matrix of requirements.
  5. Collect ideas that the MIT Community might want to use in designing a new food service framework.

The Review will use a variety of methods to get community input on its needs and wants, including interviews, public forums, surveys, and focus groups. The Review will rely largely on an initial round of open meetings and the focus groups to identify the community's dining needs. It will use surveys to get quantitative data on dining patterns and expenditure, and may use surveys to confirm needs raised by the open meetings and focus groups.

In addition, the Review will conduct Best Practices Research to get ideas on how to improve campus dining from other colleges, companies, institutions, and associations. This research will include web searches, conducting questionnaires, interviewing professionals in the food industry, and visiting certain schools and organizations.

Second Phase

During the second phase, the Food Service Working Group, the Advisory Board, and the MIT Community at large will design a new food service framework. To this end, the Group will:

  1. Provide the MIT Community with the information necessary to design a new food service framework.
  2. Provide the Community with means to participate in developing the framework. The particular technique used will be exponential communication (XC).
  3. Collate the opinions of the community into a single model, if possible, and write the model into a formal proposal.

Exponential communication is a technique which will allow the thousands of members of the MIT Community at large to work with the rest of the Review to design a new system (food service in our case). Here is a brief outline of the technique:

  1. The Review will recruit and train a Community Involvement Group (CIG). It will educate the MIT Community at large about the Dining Review, the CIG, and the identities of their "assigned" CIG member.
  2. The Food Service Working Group provides the members of the CIG with regular updates on ideas (towards the beginning of the design phase) and more concrete proposals (towards the end).
  3. The CIG members forward these updates to groups of constituents determined by the CIG and the rest of the Review. (They may do so through e-mail, posters, meetings, etc.) The constituents send their opinions to their assigned CIG member.
  4. The CIG members compile the comments they receive, and send the opinion summaries to the Working Group. Working Group staff then compile the CIG's opinion summaries into a single summary of campus opinion.

During the design phase, steps 2-4 will be repeated as frequently as appropriate.

Third Phase

During this phase, the Review will oversee the development of RFPs and other appropriate contractual changes.

Discussion of this phase will be postponed for now.

Tentative Schedule

Best Practice Research June-January 1996
Interviews & Presentations July-November 1996
Open Meetings September-October 1996
Focus Groups October-November 1996
Site Visits October-January 1996
Interim Report December 1996
Develop New Framework December 1996-February 1997
Review New Framework with Community February-March 1997
Develop Requests for Proposals, etc. February-March 1997
Final Report April 1997

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5. Status Report

Interviews and Meetings

Over the past semester, the Working Group has interviewed the following people:

Documents and Surveys Reviewed

Over the past semester, the Working Group has reviewed the following documents on the current status of dining at MIT and the results of past efforts to improve campus dining:

Best Practice Research and Site Visits

The Dining Review plans to contact the following schools and organizations as part of its Best Practice Research. In addition, members of the Working Group will visit the indicated sites.

Open Meetings

We have conducted open meetings at all of the following residences and dining halls:

Focus Group Process

Faculty 2
Alumni/ae 3
Staff 2
ILGs 2
Students (grads and undergrads) 10

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6. Results to Date

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7. Appendix

The following documents are available upon request from the Institute Dining Review Working Group.

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Questions? Comments? Ideas? Then send mail to the Institute Dining Review.

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Institute Dining Review /
Last Revised 2/1/97