Survey ranks dining options

Photo by Sam Greenberg.

The votes are in, and Silliman is the winner.

The results of a March 1 Yale Daily News survey — conducted after Yale Dining declined to publicize the full results of its survey on dining satisfaction — indicate that Silliman students are most satisfied with their dining hall, while students in Morse expressed the least satisfaction with theirs. Students across all 12 colleges also made general recommendations about menus and dining hours, with 77 percent of the more than 1,700 students who took the survey asking that dinner hours run later.

Director of Residential Dining Regenia Philips said Dining will look into the possibility of changing operating hours and addressing the other issues raised in the survey.

“Student preferences always influence the decisions we make,” she said, noting that while Dining tries to accommodate student preferences, it also tries to make sure that students with diverse preferences are accommodated.

The most common change students said they would like to see was the addition of later eating hours, with 77 percent of students asking for dinner to run past 7 p.m, and 52 percent wanting lunch to go later than 1:30 p.m.

“A lot of people have practices, rehearsals or other commitments that run late, and it would be nice if they could eat dinner without being rushed,” said Andres Fuentes-Afflick ’13. “People are frustrated by [the hours], and it could be avoided.”

He added that later dinner hours might also present health benefits to students, since many get hungry after eating an early dinner and buy junk food at Durfee’s and Gourmet Heaven for a late-night snack.

Twenty-three percent of students said the current dinner hours work well for them, while 45 percent of students said current lunch hours work well for them.

When asked which types of foods they wanted more of, students expressed most interest in having more vegetables, and then in having more meat and poultry entrees. The least popular dishes were vegetarian and vegan entrees and ethnic food — 36 percent of respondents wanted to see them diminished.

Will Jordan ’13 said that while he recognizes the need to make vegetarian options available, he believes the dining halls overdo it.

“I don’t know anyone who actually enjoys tofu ravioli or tofu apple crisp,” he said. “I would appreciate the dining halls trying to make sure that I, as well as the vegetarians, enjoy dinner.”

But some students depend on these dishes. Carter Reese ’13 said that, as a vegetarian, he would prefer to see more vegetarian options, especially at lunch. He said he generally enjoys the vegetarian items, but added that he does not usually like the vegan entrées.

Silliman chef Stu Comens, who helps plan Yale’s menus, said he has noticed that the vegan options tend to be less popular than the vegetarian options. He added that it is difficult to mass-produce appealing vegan options for the roughly 1 percent of students who observe that diet.

Comens, whose dining hall received the highest satisfaction ratings, added that Dining tries to be responsive to student requests in planning its menus, but that it is up to students to speak up and convey to Dining what they want to see in the dining halls.

The survey gave students the opportunity to rank dining halls on quality of food and quality of service. After Silliman, the highest-ranked colleges were Trumbull and Davenport. Besides Morse, the lowest-ranked were Timothy Dwight and Jonathan Edwards.

Philips said the variations between dining halls are not major, and the small differences probably stem from the staff of the dining halls, since the menus are the same across all dining halls.

Physical facilities may also play a role. Comens said that because of the way Silliman is designed, he cooks the food right behind the serving line, and can see students and respond to them while working on the food.

He added that he likes to chat with students and hear their thoughts on the food, and that this also helps improve the cooking — and the relationship between the students and the staff. “I’m right there on the serving line. I can do a lot more to keep the food hot and fresh,” he said.

Jeff Hughes, assistant manager for Morse, said Morse’s relatively low satisfaction ratings can be attributed to the fact that the dining hall is operating out of a temporary kitchen this year, as the joint Ezra Stiles-Morse kitchen is being finished. In addition to working out of a temporary kitchen, he said the dining hall must coordinate some of its work around the construction schedule.

“It is our first year figuring things out in this site,” he said. “I think it will be a lot better next year.”

Morse student Elena Hoffnagle ’11 said she was not sure her college deserved such a low rating.

“I love the Morse dining hall,” she said. “The dining hall workers are great, and are very receptive to special requests.”

She did note, however, that the dining hall can often be crowded at dinner, and that food sometimes runs out since many students from coming from Payne Whitney Gymnasium or Swing Space eat in Morse.

Morse will share a newly renovated kitchen with Ezra Stiles College when Stiles opens next fall.


  • penny_lane

    A lot of necessary info about the survey is missing–how many people you sent it to and how many of those people responded, for instance. Without those numbers, it’s hard to allay suspicions that the people who responded are just the people who are most dissatisfied.

  • rr22

    well, this states the obscenely obvious. of course students want to eat dinner at 7pm. it’s absolutely ridiculous that yale dining halls close at 7 and i have no clue how they’ve been able to do this for so long without inciting revolt. most young adult out in the real world eat dinner after 7. also, college time schedules are skewed from the real world (students stay up later and then sleep later than young adults who work) so if anything, dinner should be even later to avoid the need for a late-night snack.

  • Dynasty

    Please make the raw data available via a downloadable file. Otherwise it is impossible to know whether your numbers can be taken seriously.

  • Leah

    A big +1 to penny_lane and Dynasty. It is necessary to include sample size with the article and it would be delightful if you shared the data.

    On to the substance: the early end to dinner *does* lead me to have unhealthy late night snacks and ramen. The 5-7 slot doesn’t match normal eating habits in the real world (as every other Yalie who went home over break and confused their parents by wanting dinner at 5 will agree).

  • yale

    Dinner hours must be moved later. Even my grandparents are on a later schedule than Yale Dining.

  • veg6

    So i agree that dinner should be moved to a later schedule BUT I do like how the window to eat dinner is only two hours. I think if you prolonged dinner for three hours, the residential colleges would lose some of their community feel. What’s awesome about dinner is going to your residential college and seeing a ton of people you know and chatting. If dinner was three hours people would come and go at vastly different times and the residential college dining hall at dinner would start to feel like commons at lunch time, hectic and impersonal.

  • uncommons

    Why are the chefs compelled to make so many vegan entrees? I realize that it’s a hard diet to keep, but if they are generally unpopular with the non-vegan (see 99% of the student population according to the article) students, why are there so many vegan dishes?

    Please, someone make a case for the vegan options…. at least then I could feel good about eating the apple tofu crisp…

  • yalie13

    Vegan options might work if you separate out the tofu, like if you make tofu apple crisp into just apple crisp and then give the option to add the tofu yourself. Vegetables are great and universally enjoyed, but the little extra stuff in vegan dishes can be less prioritized.

    And yea, the dining hall hours make no sense. College students stay up until midnight easily and a 5PM dinner just won’t cut it. I think they do that so they don’t have to have the workers stay for such long hours.

  • bt

    I second the demand to see the raw data!

    I understand that many of us would like to eat later than 7pm. But let’s keep in mind those who prepare our food: the dining hall staff. I’m sure their families appreciate that they are home before 9pm. And let’s keep in mind that Commons is open later, so there’s at least one option for those who miss the hours in their residential dining hall. Things aren’t that bad.

  • Y_11

    With the stranglehold that the unions have on Yale, undergrads aren’t going to see the extended dinner hours that are both desired and feasible (concerns about the budget aren’t exactly going to help either).

  • JohnnyE

    Dinner closing at 7 makes sense.

    For people that go to bed at 9:30.

  • ds747

    According to the bar graph, roughly 1200 students constituted approximately 69% of the responses. So… mathematically, the sample size was around 1750.

  • InterestedInBiology

    Can you morons complaining about needing to see the sample size READ?!? In the SECOND PARAGRAPH of the article (God forbid you actually READ it):

    “Students across all 12 colleges also made general recommendations about menus and dining hours, with 77 percent of the more than 1,700 students who took the survey asking that dinner hours run later.”

  • 11je

    Honestly, 5:30-7:30 would be perfect. The dining halls are basically empty from 5-5:30 anyway.

  • penny_lane

    InterestedInBiology: Methinks this article has been edited, because that wasn’t in there this morning when I did, in fact, read it.

  • piersonpiersoncollege

    It shouldn’t be that hard to provide vegetarian/vegan options that are tasty in addition to meeting the requisite special dietary needs. Honestly, the problem is not that there are too many vegetarian/vegan options at each meal, the problem is that Yale Dining hasn’t made the effort to find recipes that students (vegetarian/vegan and meat-eating alike) enjoy. Yalie13 sort of got at this point, but there doesn’t need to be tofu in a dish for it to be vegetarian/vegan (ESPECIALLY when it’s poorly cooked). What about some nice vegetable mixes? Pasta and sauce that isn’t just meat sauce minus meats? There is so much delicious vegetarian/vegan food in the world. It’s ridiculous that we get stuck with General Tso’s (soggy) Tofu and the like all the time…

  • br14

    What about staggering the dinner hours for the colleges? Some could continue the regular 5-7 hours, and others could adjust to 5:30-7:30, etc. The same could go for brunch.

  • Undergrad

    I do on occasion eat dinner at 5–but only when I’ve skipped lunch.

  • bk2012

    Yale dinner hours are my lunch.

  • _0_0_

    fewer* than five times a week.