Operations

Where have all the diners gone?

UMass Amherst is reeling customers in with creativity.

Restaurateurs in Amherst, Mass., aren’t happy with UMass Dining.

umass amherst food

Registered dietitian Dianne Sutherland told local NBC affiliate WWLP News in May that the high quality of food served on campus means students aren’t visiting neighborhood eateries as frequently as those businesses might like.

“Even our vendors who we work with, they get complaints from the restaurants that students are staying on campus,” she said. “They are already paying for the food; why should they [go] off campus to eat?” More than 19,000 Amherst students are on a meal plan—6,000 of whom live off campus.

Ken Toong, Amherst’s executive director of auxiliary enterprises, says that a personal connection is what keeps students coming back for more. “The difference between us and QSRs is that we’re feeding the same people every day,” he says. “UMass is a living laboratory. We work to create not only great food, but a dining experience. [Students] brag to their friends at other schools.”

The university also “aligns itself with the student lifestyle,” Toong says, by providing food on demand—wherever, whenever. 

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