Food Services

Patrons influence food outlet changes

by Connie Bagshaw
Staff writer

A recent survey suggests that faculty and staff are generally satisfied with the food and service provided by UBC Food Services, while concerns about variety and value are more predominant among students on campus.

The two-part study, conducted by the Farrell Research Group Ltd., follows changes recommended by consultants Ernst and Young to improve the financial forecast for the university's food operations.

In August 1996, the Ernst and Young report suggested that the university close Pacific Spirit Place, a 950-seat cafeteria-style outlet in the Student Union Building.

An advisory committee comprising UBC students, faculty, staff and administrators has been established to find alternative ways of operating the site.

Committee members are: Terry Sumner, chair, vice-president, Administration and Finance; Lisa Castle, Human Resources; Tony Fogarassy, Office of the Associate Vice-President, Academic and Legal Affairs; Dr. John Gilbert, Health Sciences; Tara Ivanochko, Board of Governors; Paula Martin, Public Affairs; Bernie Peets, Alma Mater Society; Jacquie Rice, Financial Services; Mary Risebrough, Housing and Conferences; Judy Vaz, Food Services; Gordon Barefoot, Ernst and Young; and a student to be nominated by the AMS.

The committee will establish a project charter, develop criteria for selection of proposals, choose the best proposed use of the site, monitor project timelines and provide guidance and advice on the scope of the changes. The committee will also issue a request for proposals to include Pacific Spirit Place, the central commissary and possibly other Food Services' units.

The Ernst and Young report also recommended discontinuation of table service at Trekkers Restaurant in favour of expanding its take-out operation.

"The market research tells us that Trekkers is quite popular, particularly with faculty and staff, and that there is a need for that type of service on campus," said Judy Vaz, acting director of Food Services. "The operation has been reviewed and will most likely continue to offer table service during the academic year, and self-service in the summer months."

Vaz said that the study was undertaken in an effort to understand the needs of present and future customers, and to examine ways of enhancing communications with the campus community about food services and how they're delivered.

Results of the research firm's focus group interviews with faculty, staff and students last October indicate that students perceive a lack of variety in healthier food choices, want more value for their money, find food packaged in plastic wrap and styrofoam unappealing as well as environmentally unfriendly and associate Food Services with institutional images.

Food Services has since introduced new menu items that offer wholesome alternatives at reasonable prices and packaging options are being assessed, Vaz said.

While the report determined that faculty and staff found the variety, quantity, quality and price of food available at Food Services' 12 retail outlets satisfactory, they agreed, with students, that crowding and confusion about hours of operation were significant problems facing the deparment.

Vaz said that communication through campus media, on-site advertising, consistency of hours and the establishment of a home page on the World Wide Web will help minimize confusion about retail outlet hours.

"Addressing concerns about crowding, especially during the lunch period, remains challenging," she said.

The report indicates that the loss of the Faculty Club is a contributing factor and that a "quiet place" is clearly needed.

Vaz urged members of the campus community to share their ideas and concerns by completing suggestion cards available at all Food Services retail outlets, or by calling the department at 822-3663.

Results of phase two of the study, surveying more in-depth demographics, eating and spending habits and food preferences of customers are expected later this month. Food Services' web page can be found at