CDS Develops New Strategies to Meet Student Needs


Sofia Herron Geller

During DeCafé’s busiest hours, students wait in lines to check out.

In response to increased student demand for quick and convenient dining options, Campus Dining Services is undergoing a self-evaluation process to identify possible changes to dining facilities. These changes include revamping dining spaces, updating DeCafé offerings, and creating more avenues of communication between CDS and students.

CDS has invited architect Warren Bulesco, principal at WTW Architects, to visit campus next week. According to the firm’s website, Bulesco specializes in designing and updating dining facilities in addition to recreational and athletics complexes.

“Warren is assessing each current dining location in relation to student life and how that location — and potentially others — can meet the current needs of students and still allow for flexibility for the future,” CDS General Manager Wayne Wood wrote in an email to the Review. “Dining trends change on campus just as they do in the outside world, and we want to be nimble to meet future requests and needs while still addressing current operational goals.”

Student Senator and College fourth-year Cait Kelley, who also serves as a dining ambassador, sees these updates to campus dining as long overdue.

“[Bulesco is] coming in to figure out what the future of campus dining can look like here,” Kelley said. “A lot of buildings have not been updated in decades. The aesthetic issues are numerous, especially at Stevenson [Dining Hall].”

Wood and others hope that a fresh perspective will bring innovative solutions for dining.

“He’s thinking on a big scale,” Wood said. “He’s already noticed the hallway in Stevenson is dark and not inviting.”

There are several ways students can make their concerns heard in the upcoming dining services evaluation. CDS will host focus groups throughout the day on Thursday, Oct. 17. Students can also meet Warren at an open meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 30 from 6–8 p.m. in King Building 106.

CDS has invited several student groups to take part in the focus groups. There will be sessions focused on addressing the specific dining needs of Conservatory students, athletes, Afrikan Heritage House residents, among others.

DeCafé’s original design as an on-campus convenience store has had to adjust to higher student demand by fostering a more comprehensive, dining hall-like experience. Four years ago, 1,600 meal swipes were registered at DeCafé daily. This number now surpasses 3,000 swipes a day, according to College fourth-year Pearse Anderson, who serves as a dining ambassador.

“As students have asked for more portability and flexibility over the past few years, meal plans have been adjusted with this feedback in mind,” Wood wrote. “Grab & Go and [convenience]-store business has been showing an upward trend; this follows national trends at other colleges like Oberlin.”

According to DeCafé Manager Nancy German, students could not use board meals at DeCafé as recently as the spring of 2017. DeCafé began accepting meal swipes in the fall semester of 2017. German believes that the popularity of this policy may have contributed to the increased burden on DeCafé to meet student demand.

Wood also believes that changing attitudes around eating have contributed to a surge in DeCafé’s popularity.

“As students seem to be migrating away from the standard ‘three meals a day’ and toward eating smaller meals at different times a day, DeCafé fits this need,” Wood wrote.

Kelley argues that students have become more dependent on DeCafé as other dining options close, such as the closing of Dascomb Dining Hall in 2018.

“The fact that DeCafé is being overrun is just the natural progression of things,” Kelley said, and cited recent improvements to the space as indicative of CDS’ responsiveness to student input and need.

There were also other changes made at DeCafé this semester. The introduction of Sally the Salad robot, paid for by Bon Appétit Management Company, was motivated by the fact that the open display of salad add-ons in DeCafé made it difficult to keep the ingredients fresh and free of cross-contamination. DeCafé has added another Sally the Salad robot to assess if there is enough student demand for a second machine.

Additionally, CDS staff streamlined the sandwich section of DeCafé considerably starting in fall 2018, as offering customized sandwiches each day restricted cooler space due to the many different ingredients. This semester, a small selection of vegetarian, vegan, and meat burgers were made available.

Students are always welcome to express their input about campus dining directly to CDS.

“While there are several ways to communicate with campus dining services, by far the easiest way is to see one of our managers or supervisors in the dining halls or Grab & Go locations,” wrote Wood.

Wood also recommends that students text the Zingle app at (440) 427-3093 to talk to a manager, and he invites students to come to design committee meetings, held Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. in Biggs Commons.