Rave Reviews

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

University Dining Services Director Patricia Bando likes to deal in metaphors and the fact that she arrived on campus the day of this year's Boston Marathon provides an opportunity she can't pass up.

"I may not be a real runner, but I do see what we are doing in Dining Services as akin to running a marathon," explained Bando, formerly the director of dining and retail services and associate campus life director at Cornell University. "This is not a fast sprint. What we want to do is build up our speed and stamina, and get to the finish line; in this case, making Boston College dining the best in the country."

Seven months after she began her marathon, Bando says she is not about to "hit the wall." She has implemented some subtle but significant changes, and is planning others which she feels will reflect Dining Services' true role in the University community.

"In a college or university, dining means more than just a space in which to eat, more than three meals a day," Bando said. "It is about being able to relax in a pleasant atmosphere, enjoy one another's company, things which are integral to the life and spirit of the institution. We want to be seen as part of the community here."

"Pat has shown herself to be a very creative and personable director," said Vice President for Administration John T. Driscoll. "She has established a good reputation with her employees at every level and they have trust in her judgment. The various constituency groups her department serves, especially the students, have given us very favorable views on her work."

Bando refers to her recent initiatives as more a "nip-and-tuck than a major facelift," but feels these are substantive nonetheless. With the Lower Campus Dining Hall proving to be more popular than expected, for example, she broadened the menu to include more hot entrees. Bando also arranged "movie theme meals" at some of the dining facilities - "Forrest Gump Day" featured shrimp dishes and VCRs were set up at the sites to show the popular movie.

"It's important for customers and employees to enjoy the atmosphere," she said. "We just thought of this as a way to bring some fun to the dining experience."

But Bando has also been reaching out to her customers by establishing a World Wide Web home page and instituting a "Critics Corner" program, in which customers are encouraged to submit written complaints, questions, suggestions and other comments to the individual dining facility managers, who quickly reply.

Bando feels her varied background - she has management experience at the Trump Plaza Hotel and Cornell Medical Center's New York Hospital - has been useful in meeting the challenges of her current job.

"Look at Boston College itself," Bando said. "Not many years ago, most of the students who came here were commuters. But in a relatively short time, it's become not just a national but an international institution and there are so many more different tastes on campus. Also, students in general have become that much more cosmopolitan. In the past, having Thai food on the menu might be seen as something really exotic and unusual, but now it's something students have almost come to expect.

"Of course, in the past decade or so, students have also become more interested in different kinds of diets," she added. "You still have many who want the traditional meal plan, but there are plenty who have more specialized needs. These are things practically every college or university dining service has to deal with. Boston College, however, has an atmosphere which emphasizes excellence and that has made a strong impression on me."

Bando wants Dining Services personnel to "look for continuous improvement, not just settle for doing well." Dining staff are paying more attention to the presentation of meals, she said, "to make the food look and taste great." Beginning next semester, Bando noted, the office will open "The Expressway," which will provide quick meals and serve as a training area for Dining Services staff - thereby resolving two needs at once, she said.

"Many people still have the old image of college cafeteria food being made en masse," Bando said. "But you can go anywhere on campus and see that is not true. We are really committed to working as a team and making the dining experience the best it can be for Boston College."

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