Chartwells holds discussions, focus groups


Students sit at tables in Smaug while they eat, work on homework and spend time with friends on Thursday April, 13 in Kryzsko Commons. (Photo by Taylor Nyman)
Students sit at tables in the Smaug while they eat, work on homework and spend time with friends on Thursday, April 13 in Kryzsko Commons. Dining Services asked focus groups of students what they would like to see in the newly renovated Smaug next fall. (Photo by Taylor Nyman)

Dining Services seeks student feedback on meal plans, food choices

Elizabeth Pulanco / Winonan

On Tuesday, April 18 and Wednesday, April 19, Chartwells, Winona State University’s food vending service, hosted discussion groups with students to gain feedback about the services they provide at each of the campus dining locations.

Chartwells managing director Tracy Jaquette led the discussions with the Chartwells managing directors from St. Cloud State University and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Jaquette said it is helpful to have the other representatives present at the discussion because their neutral position could provide interesting observations.

“I look forward to getting their take on it because they are not here all of the time,” Jaquette said.

Three focus groups were held on April 18 for commuting and graduate students, while on-campus students had the chance to choose between five different focus groups on April 19.

The leaders of each focus group will have topics prepared. Jaquette said the conversation will be directed by the students.

Jaquette said discussions are broken up into different sections because the off-campus students have different needs than students who live in residence halls.

“If off-campus students want to talk about the block meal plans that are only available to them, it is helpful to have enough students to get legit feedback on it,” Jaquette said. “If we have on-campus students only, we can focus on different aspects. I want to figure how they feel about the residential meal plans and the options that are available to them.”

According to Jaquette, the last time Winona State participated in an open discussion with Chartwells was in December 2015.

Jaquette recently attended the Chartwells discussion in River Falls and the university was able to get some important feedback from the students.

“Different ideas bounced around and brainstorming happens. I’m hoping that good things can come out of Winona’s focus groups as well,” Jaquette said. “Each group will sort of take their own path.”

While in River Falls, Jaquette observed a focus group where three out of the eight people in the group had food sensitivities, which became the focus of their discussion.

Jaquette said the Winona State discussions included topics related to meal plans, menus and the different food retail areas on campus. The Kryzsko Kash aspect of Winona State’s on-campus meal plans was also a point of discussion.

Chad Johnson, the assistant director of Dining Services at Winona State, said he believes these discussions, which occur every two years, will provide the feedback that Dining Services needs to improve.

“Feedback is always great for us. We can use it to move beyond something that is not working and start changing something in a new direction to create a better dining experience,” Johnson said. “We do surveys and meetings in general, but with these discussions, we really get to interact with the students.”

Jacquette said she has discussions with the university’s Food Committee every Wednesday but that this discussion group let students share their thoughts on Chartwells’ food.

“This is a really great chance for students themselves to have their voice heard,” Jaquette said.

With the ability to get the feedback from students, Johnson said he believes these discussions can make positive changes in the way Dining Services operates within the university.

Johnson said he hopes the students in the discussions felt comfortable enough to provide honest feedback, even if it was a complaint.

“It is a great place to start some dialogue and get people comfortable with us. You can’t fix anything if you don’t know what’s wrong,” Johnson said. “We don’t always know if what we are doing currently works for people, so it is also to hear about what you are doing right.”