JULIANNE STRIBIAK | Staff Reporter
A new interim director of dining services will replace Michelle Bryant-Jones after she left her position with little notice early this semester.
Nate Haugh, operations director in the office of student affairs, was next in line to fill the gap in leadership.
Sally Click, dean of student affairs, said the director is responsible for all aspects of the campus dining program.
“When I came to Butler, the plan was for me to learn how to operate here and be able to step into the director position when it became available,” Haugh said. “We didn’t expect it to be this quick, and I think that’s why I’ve been named the interim director.”
He said he has more responsibility now, both to Aramark and to the university.
“At this point, I still do everything I did before, just on a grander scale,” Haugh said.
Some differences exist between his current and previous position, however.
“Previously, I dealt with mostly the financial side of business, along with management development,” Haugh said. “I deal with more human resources issues, both with the hourly staff and the management team. The biggest difference is dealing with the university a lot more than I did in my previous position. We report to the office of student affairs.”
Click said there have been some changes made within Dining Services.
“Most visibly in February, March and April, the managers have sponsored many different theme meals and special events,” she said. “They are outlined on a calendar at the entrance to the dining halls: karaoke, National Pretzel Day, April Fools’ lunch, etc.”
Click said Haugh was also instrumental in implementing the Campus Club Food Court hours change to midnight on Sunday through Thursdays.
“My focus has been on doing things in the dining halls that bring excitement,” Haugh said. “If you look over the past two months and the number of special events we’ve done since I’ve taken over, it blows away what we’ve done in the past couple of years combined. Our March and April calendars can prove that. I’ve also been working with the managers on hiring the right people, which will impact food quality.”
Haugh said he has tried to improve the quality of the food served in Atherton Marketplace by collaborating with the school and getting input from different divisions.
“I held a brainstorming session with several key leaders here to come up with ideas to spruce up the dining halls,” he said. “We’ve also worked with students on being part of things like Bulldog Bash that was help in the bookstore and Starbucks area.”
Haugh said the executive chef, Nathaniel Malone, develops the creative menus.
Click said Malone has worked with Haugh to identify free trade items for use and for sale in all dining venues.
“Nate assisted in getting Firehouse Subs on board for the Dawg Bucks program, but unfortunately we were informed that the Broad Ripple store would be closing,” Click said. “We are working with students to determine another partner for this off-campus dining program.”
Since Haugh started as interim director, he said the feedback has been very positive.
“We haven’t had any complaints,” Haugh said. “The students’ participation in things like the karaoke night and looking for the clue the leprechaun hid is feedback, even if they aren’t directly saying it.”
Click also said students have responded positively to the themes and special events.
“The video clips from karaoke included everyone up on their feet doing the Cupid Shuffle,” she said. “Students are pretty good about providing feedback on the comment cards about dishes they like or don’t like or items they’d like to see more of.”
Haugh said by next school year there will be a full-time director, rather than an interim director.
“I love working at Butler,” he said. “It is my goal to be the director here.”
Click said she will work with the Aramark regional director to identify candidates for the upcoming semester.
“We will look for the person with appropriate experiences and the right fit for the Butler campus,” she said.
Haugh said Levester Johnson, vice president for student affairs, will be the ultimate decision maker.
Click said Haugh would still have to apply for the position if he decides to be a candidate.
“Continual improvement is the goal,” she said. “Part of that is anticipating future trends and communicating with current students about their preferences.”
Haugh said he has many suggestions for bettering Dining Services.
“I think we need to continually improve the quality of employees we hire,” the interim director said. “I also think we need more national brands here on campus. Hopefully if everything works out for a new residence hall to be built, we can add some new concepts in there somewhere. I would love to see a Chick Fil-A, Q’doba or Subway instead of what we currently offer in the C-Club.”
Haugh said these things take a lot of money to get going.
Haugh said he thinks in the next five years, Dining Services will look completely different than it does now.
“As Butler’s national presence increases, so do the demands,” he said. “Housing and food are at the top of the list of demands. The renovation to A-town was not only completely necessary to keep up with other universities, I think it was just the first step in getting Butler to where it needs to be.”
“I’m excited to see what is to come,” Haugh said.