News Date: 
Friday, February 3, 2017

Source: The Red & Black

Benjamin Richmond

February 1, 2017

University of Georgia Food Services serves tons of food every semester, and the central storage building which keeps all this food is almost the size of half a football field. Making sure all of the food gets eaten involves a lot of planning and logistics. “It’s a huge place, and it’s always full of food...so just imagine filling that building every 30 days,” said Jorge Noriega, executive chef of Food Services and associate director of Culinary Development. With over 30,000 meals served daily, dining services has to know what to serve and how much, balancing customer satisfaction and food waste reduction. They use several avenues, from production sheets to student feedback, to gather data and information for these decisions. “We know, almost to, I think it’s a five percent accuracy, how many people are gonna walk through the doors during those days. So we order accordingly,” Noriega said. Dining services uses a system, with almost 18 years worth of data, called FoodPro in order to make such predictions. Every day they use the data to keep track of how much of each type of food is served. “All the team members that you see, besides serving and keeping everything nice, clean and fresh, they’re recording every single thing that they serve,” Noriega said. The staff does this using production sheets, which are then put into FoodPro’s system. Food served in chafing dishes are weighed while foods such as cookies are counted individually. “They’re recording how much they make, how much they put on the line and how much has come back,” said Allison Brannen, Dining Service’s marketing coordinator. This information helps factor what foods are on the menu. If data shows a menu item isn’t being consumed often, it could mean the item is ready to be taken off the menu. Other than data, UGA uses both seasonal and student factors to decide the dining hall menus. “We offer a warm weather menu and a cool weather menu. So you’ll see the menu adjust with the seasons...It’s the best practice we’ve implemented,” Brannen said. Not only do some foods complement the temperature of certain seasons, but some foods, like strawberries, need to be in season to be flavorful. So food items “naturally rotate” into the menu. “It’s more or less about the flavor, for us...Our new leadership believes that we need to offer the best tasting foods that we can, and I believe that too,” Noriega said. Some menu items are a favorite among students and would be very difficult to remove. “Chicken fingers. Chicken fingers and chicken nuggets...Even if I wanted to I couldn’t take them off of the menu,” Noriega said. Noriega said they went through close to “10 to 13 tons” of nuggets per semester. Other items, such as vegan or vegetarian options, may not be the most popular amongst students, but would still be difficult to remove. The total popularity of these items are “curved” because of student feedback to keep them. “We are constantly getting feedback too, through a number of different avenues,” Brannen said. Brannen said a very popular method that dining services uses is their mobile feedback, an option on their mobile website where students can email comments to dining services. "In general, I think it's pretty nice. I don't know. They could always do better I guess, but I don't really find anything really lacking." said Quentin Smith, Sophomore music major from Athens. "I think I've submitted something online once. Like a feedback thing one time." They also use a Mystery Shopper program, where select students, who remain anonymous to the dining employees, come to the halls to dine and give their feedback. Brannen said that student feedback directly influences their food choices moving forward. Because dining services is a part of UGA’s Auxiliary Services, a division of UGA made up of seven different retail and service departments, it can work with the other branches for information, such as when students are moving out and how many. “It is a big family. We are a little bit of an unconventional big family, but we talk, we communicate,” Noriega said. Despite constant feedback and information, Noriega wished students would be more vocal on what they’re looking for. “This is your restaurant, you guys are our guests, you guys choose what you want to eat...At the end of the day, you guys are the ones that come in to eat,” Noriega said.