Above and at bottom: Baker Dining Hall is the largest residential foodservice operation on campus.
About 75 percent of MIT's 4,000 undergraduatestudents live in campus residential facilities, and about 1,200 of these participate in the residential meal plan on a typical day.
Of eleven campus residence halls, four have dining facilities: Baker, Next, Simmons and McCormick halls. Residential dining services are provided by Bon Appetit, a division of Compass USA, which also manages a kosher dining operation at the campus' Amherst Street Deli and offers halal food at its Baker Hall operation.
"The school has had a major initiative to upgrade residential dining," says Berlin. Baker house was renovated in the late 90s; Next house was upgraded in 2001, and Simmons was built new three years ago when the school began to require that all students room on campus for at least freshman year. Finally, the school opened a dining facility in McCormick last year.
The school's board plan is a declining balance, cash-based program, with students funding their accounts at whatever level they want, with balances rolling over from year to year. Meals in the halls are sold a la carte and can be paid for by cash or via their TechCASH accounts, with a typical dinner meal running about $7.50.
"While freshmen are required to live on campus, they don't have to participate in the board plan," Berlin notes."They do have to make a series of residential choices, and one of them is whether to live in a residence hall that has dining , vs. one that doesn't."
Students who do choose halls that offer foodservice are required to participate in MIT's " Preferred Dining Membership" program, an approach Berlin likens to a warehouse club membership.
"For $250 a semester, students with preferred diner status get a 50 percent discount on the prepared food offered in any of seven locations," he explains."The plan was developed by a student committee and it creates a modest incentive for students to dine together, which fits in with the university's community-building goals."
About 1,000 students participate in the Preferred Diner program, including several hundred students who sign up for it even though they live in halls where it is not required. Since it was introduced in 2002, "there has been a very significant increase in customer satisfaction among those participating," says Berlin.
"Our surveys also show that the students in our residence halls with foodservice are happier with their dining options than those who are not."