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Student satisfaction with Duke Dining has risen in last three years, survey says


Students have started liking Duke Dining a lot more in the last few years.

According to a student satisfaction survey presented to the Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee at its Thursday meeting, students' general satisfaction with Dining has increased more than 60 percent since 2013. 

"Overall, satisfaction is high," said Anna Li, director of assessment and research for student affairs.

The survey, which is administered in the fall, showed a 32 percent increase from 2014 to 2015, bringing the total satisfaction to 74 percent. That pushed Duke above the national average dining satisfaction for colleges, which was 68 percent that year. 

That was one year before the Brodhead Center—then called West Union—reopened, but the sharp increase came on the heels of renovations to Marketplace, said Robert Coffey, director of Duke Dining. The year-and-a-half renovation project, which was the first at Marketplace in approximately 20 years, was completed without the East Campus Dining facility having to shut down at any point.

"It was like a cave going into [Marketplace], dark and dingy," Coffey joked.

In 2016 and 2017, satisfaction climbed above 80 percent. That jump came after the Brodhead Center reopened from its multi-year reconstruction.

Aside from overall satisfaction, there were some specific topics covered in the 25-category survey in which Duke varied from the national average. 

Duke students commended Dining for its cleanliness of serving areas, taste, friendliness of staff and appearances. Duke dipped below the national average in the 2016 ratings for value, but nearly caught back up in 2017. 

DUSDAC members also discussed hours of operation because there was a significant difference between how much students cared about it and how satisfied they were. 

One explanation that was brought up was that most of the Brodhead Center's venues generally close earlier than Duke students would prefer. Coffey also offered that it might be an informational issue, as students may not know about 24-hour venues like Pitchforks and McDonald's. 

"It's because Duke students love to stay up late and do work late," junior Allie Rauch suggested. 

Li explained that the survey was sent by email to a random sample of 1,500 Duke undergraduate students, and that they typically had a 20 to 30 percent response rate. Dining has offered larger incentives to students who complete the survey in the past, but DUSDAC members recommended parsing those larger rewards into more smaller ones. 

Instead of offering a $400 Apple Watch, they could offer 40 $10 gift cards.

In other business

Last year, Dining added two extra Marketplace swipes to the first-year meal plan. But Thursday night, Coffey mentioned that Dining was also considering changes to the food point allocation for first-years. 

After the meeting, he explained that he does not know what the change could look like yet, but that it will become clearer as the budget process moves along in December. Any shifts to the first-year food point allotment could go into effect as early as this school year, Coffey said.