Katherine Lin

Just before spring break, Yale Hospitality — the department that encompasses residential college dining, Yale catering and other food-related operations — introduced major updates to its website for the first time since 2008.

The redesigned website makes basic information on dining hall hours, menu options and upcoming events more easily accessible, and boasts a number of new capabilities, such as allowing students to purchase Eli Bucks online, according to Michael Van Emmenes, Yale Hospitality’s Director of Business Intelligence and Optimization and the leader of the team that managed the redesign. The new site also has a distinct mobile format designed to accommodate a variety of screen dimensions. In addition to improving the clarity and navigability of the site, Van Emmenes’ team worked to address student complaints about outdated information and broken links. Van Emmenes said the recent changes represent only the first phase of the new website’s release, and further updates will follow in the coming weeks. Launched about a year ago, the project to redesign the site was conducted by a team selected from within Yale Hospitality with the support of both Yale Information Technology Services and external consulting firms.

“This new site was built primarily to enhance the user’s experience in both a desktop and mobile device, and we were able to do this by engaging students, faculty and staff in the process,” Van Emmenes said.

Yale Hospitality elected not to advertise the redesign to students, and the vast majority of those interviewed seemed unaware that anything had changed in the days following the initial unveiling on March 7. Of the 23 students interviewed about the new website, just one knew that an update had occurred.

Director of Residential Dining Cathy Van Dyke SOM ’86, however, said she was not concerned about the website’s unceremonious introduction. Van Dyke compared the website’s initial launch to the “soft opening” of a restaurant, saying that Yale Hospitality would issue a formal announcement to students as a “grand opening” after perfecting the website’s makeup.

The one surveyed student who did notice the update, Amy Cheng ’19, a staff reporter for the News, said she uses the website every day to decide where to eat. Cheng offered a mixed review of the new site.

“I find it slightly less convenient even though the interface looks much nicer and [more] aesthetically pleasing,” she said.

Multiple students interviewed expressed an interest in seeing an update to Yale Dining’s “Fast Track” mobile application, adding that they use it far more frequently than they do the website. According to Van Dyke, however, Yale Hospitality currently has no plans to redesign the app, which was last updated in 2013.

The website update comes on the heels of the Yale College Council’s comprehensive report on Yale Dining, which was released March 4. Although the report’s authors from the YCC’s dining task force were aware that work to redesign the website was already underway, they still highlighted specific issues the redesign should address. The report’s recommendations included making the website more aesthetically pleasing and easily navigable, as well as making feedback forms and nutritional information more accessible.

Kevin Sullivan ’18, the leader of the dining task force, said the website update met all of the group’s specifications.

“It pretty much covered everything we could have wanted out of it,” Sullivan said. “I probably couldn’t be happier with this website. It’s really great.”