Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Dunster Grille Blueprint for Action

The data presented here leads me to a more conclusive description of the responsibilities of the student managers as well as a list of seven recommendations for next year's managers. These recommendations are drawn from my research last semester as well as this semester.

Student managers of Dunster Grille are responsible for a variety of tasks required to keep the grille open including scheduling shifts, submitting food orders and payroll, hiring and training new employees, tracking the grille's finances, and maintaining the grille's facilities. Aside from these responsibilities, student managers are also student administrators, serving as liaisons between administrators, employees, and the broader Dunster community.

Administrator and student priorities can be at odds; in these cases, student managers must negotiate between the two groups to find appropriate solutions, advocating for both administrator and student employee priorities. This semester, employee revolt against the solo shift policy led to negative outcomes. In order to avoid this issue in the future, it is critical that student managers and administrators create a system of resolving these conflicts early on, setting norms, goals, and expectations for the grilles. In addition, the partnership between student managers and administrators must allow student managers to be empowered to advocate for student employees and have their concerns be taken into consideration. A more robust system of feedback from employees could go a long way to making their voices heard with administrators.


  1. Move manager turnover to winter break rather than summer break. This is how manager turnover is conducted at Cabot Cafe, and it is the easiest way to preserve institutional memory, as senior grille managers will continue to be on campus to help transition new managers. In addition, this will ensure that senior managers are not writing theses during their term as manager. This recommendation has already been accepted and will be implemented next year. Additionally, a manual for grille managers will help to preserve institutional memory and is currently in the works.
  2. Return to two person shifts and do away with solo shifts. Rather than cutting back on employees, student managers should focus on bringing in more business through a variety of tactics including better advertising in Dunster and other Houses, implementing a rewards program for frequent customers (as supported by over three quarters of Dunster students), or selling grille merchandise such as hats or shirts. If administrators refuse to budge, shifts should be assigned for the entire semester rather than having new signups every week. This will prevent scheduling issues we encountered this year.
  3. Move weekday hours one hour earlier. This is a move supported by student employees and customers alike. It may also help to bring in business from athletes who go to bed early because of early morning practices, a potentially new source of revenue for the grille that could offset expenses from two person shifts. Weekend hours seem to be well-suited to both employee and community preferences.
  4. Continue to increase the grille's presence in specialty events, including HoCo events and tutor study breaks. As a large source of revenue, these events can drive new business at the grille and are popular among the community. This semester, five tutor study breaks brought in $250 in revenue and the Grille Crawl, a campus-wide grille collaboration, brought in $783 in revenue as compared to the $433 in revenue on an average Friday night. These events accomplish two goals in one by fostering community at the same time that they bring in more revenue for the grille.
  5. Introduce new weekly or monthly special menu items. The community data provides a list of new menu items that customers would like to see, and changes to the menu might bring in more stable business.
  6. Create a discount for sophomores or DeWolfe students and foster loyalty to the grille early on. By bringing in sophomores and students from DeWolfe, the grille can integrate new Meese and foster a more cohesive Dunster community that is welcoming to all Dunster students.
  7. Continue to solicit employee and community feedback. These surveys provided a rare insight into how these groups view the grille and helped create a set of very actionable recommendations. Comparison data will provide even more insight if the surveys are distributed again in the future. Even if the surveys are not distributed again next year, an institutionalized system of feedback will help managers make more informed decisions. One area to explore could be adding questions about the grille to the annual House Life Survey, allowing managers access to what might be more representative data from the House.
These recommendations are not to be taken at face value, but should rather be critiqued and revisited by successive managers. They are reflections of my research and experience as manager this year, and their implementation could go a long way toward allowing the grille to fulfill its institutional purpose as an important part of the Dunster House living learning community.

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