College faces new challenges in dining halls as student body grows

As the student population continues to grow, Dining Services has been modifying and testing new methods for feeding the students with efficiency and quality (Photo by Brandon Marin ’22).

The class of 2023 is one of the largest incoming classes to date, with 701 students enrolled, and the class before is the largest with 733 enrolled. More students mean more mouths to feed, and with the growing student body population, the college has been making a number of changes to its dining program to accommodate increasingly busy dining halls.

Christopher Brown, the General Manager of Bon Appétit Management Company, who runs Lafayette’s dining services, said that he and the rest of the staff at Bon Appétit, are happy about the additional students on campus.

“[We] welcome the growing student population, as it gives us an opportunity to provide more menu options and variety,” Brown said. Doing so, he said, also allows for some time to figure out what new options will be both efficient and popular.

According to Brown, Bon Appétit has been re-purposing the taco bar, which has been closed in the Upper Farinon dining hall, to test recipes and try out new self-service options, such as a decorate-your-own cookie bar or a hummus station.

There were other changes that needed to be made to accommodate the larger student body, Brown added.

The opening of the new ECO Café in the Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center serves about 400 students per day, he said, which will alleviate some of the crowding at the other dining halls on campus. Gilbert’s Cafe has also undergone some changes, with the addition of a hand-taco station.

“[That] gets students through quite quickly,” Brown added.

Marquis Dining Hall is one location that gets particularly packed, especially during the lunch hour. Philip Sherrer, a staff member at Marquis, said he has noticed it has been quite crowded lately and that changes in the setup and the day-to-day operations of the dining hall have taken place as a result. 

“Replacing three round tables that sat 10 were too often occupied by one person,” Brown explained, was one change. 13 four-top tables have been added in their place. An extra food service line offering the day’s main options has also been provided, which helps students get their meals more quickly.

In addition to these changes, a new diner is currently being built on McCartney Street, and is scheduled to open for the Fall 2020 semester. The new diner will accept meal swipes, and according to Roger Demareski, Vice President of Finance and Administration, it will “provide a lot of relief” when it comes to overcrowding in the dining halls.

The Campus Wide Course Scheduling Committee has been discussing the possibility of altering scheduling and the structure of student meal times as well. This would involve “elongating the lunch hour [and] giving students more flexibility and time in Marquis and Upper, [to] make use of those facilities in a more efficient way,” Demareski explained. “The buildings are there, the staff is there, and everything is set up.”

Extending the meal period in the afternoon could be a solution to the often cramped eating quarters, he added.

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