While working for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Beth Emery realized that she was passionate about food and people, not the clinical side of her nutrition field.
Emery, the new director of Boston College Dining Services (BCDS), has spent 25 years in food service particularly focused on higher education. Before arriving at BC in November, she most recently served as a territory manager for professional services provider Aramark, managing dining services for multiple small colleges in the Boston area.
The position at BC, which was vacated in the fall when former director Helen Wechsler resigned to fill a similar role at Google, interested Emery due to the University’s reputation and the singular focus of the job.
“The opportunity to come to one campus and focus my energy on one place was really attractive, and that was one of the reasons that this position was appealing,” Emery said.
Three months into her new role, Emery is making strides to address what she sees as BCDS’s biggest challenge-communicating its initiatives and programs to the BC community.
“One of the things I noticed right away is that the department does really great things, but we don’t always tell everybody about them,” Emery said.
Emery said a major goal for BCDS is to improve its social media presence and publicity efforts. To facilitate this goal, the department hired three BC undergraduate communication majors as interns, and they are assisting with launching a Twitter account, creating a new Facebook page, and updating the BCDS website.
Another facet of the department’s outreach efforts is seeking more feedback from students and the greater campus community.
“We want to try to solicit more feedback so we can continuously improve,” Emery said. This includes establishing a baseline survey for the entire community and gaining the ability to receive more feedback through enhanced social media outlets.
The Featured Chef Series in the faculty dining room is one program that Emery specified would be the focus of increased publicity. The periodic dinners featuring special menus inspired by famous chefs’ cuisine were popular last year, she said, but recorded low attendance during the fall semester. Emery said she also hopes to publicize more clearly the monthly nutrition focus of the Nourish program, BCDS’s collaboration with the Office of Health Promotion.
Emery noted that BCDS student employees are an important source of feedback for the department.
“I was very happy to see that BC has lots of student employees, and I believe that it makes the program that much stronger,” Emery said. “You have somebody right there working with you that has their roommate’s and everyone on their floor’s feedback that they can then share with their manager.”
She emphasized the overall value that student employees bring to the department.
“Everyone loves having the student employees, and they’re the ones that often come up with the better way to do things, in terms of process,” Emery said.
With regard to new ideas the department is developing for on-campus dining halls, Emery said it is always looking to keep up with the latest popular trends in food. She gave the example of different types of pizza that are being tested, as members of dining services are shopping around at local pizza restaurants, talking to students, and will be holding focus groups to determine which types are best received.
Emery said that BCDS continually looks to compare what it offers with what other colleges, as well as off-campus dining locations, offer to remain fresh and competitive.
“We always constantly have to make sure that we’re as good as when you go off campus,” she said.
The same concept applies to comparing local convenience stores with products and prices in the On The Fly mini-marts.
“We look at what [convenience stores] are promoting and what their product line is and we do our best to think about what makes sense on campus,” Emery said. “It’s not always the same customer that they may be targeting, so we have to think about what makes sense for a student environment.”
The team at BCDS, Emery said, is dedicated to concentrating on improving variety and she noted the “incredible culinary talent” that is present on the BC campus.
“The commitment in terms of quality, food safety, and service is really strong, and there’s a huge commitment at all levels,” Emery said. “There’s no question that the pride the whole team takes in food and service is impressive, so the most important pieces-the quality, food, and service-are there.”