More diverse food options, mobile ordering, Starbucks, Cinnabon, and Center Court are topics being considered for changes within Dining Services.
With more and more students asking for more vegan and vegetarian options, Dining Services continues to look for more ways to meet demands.
“The impossible burger has been doing great. We are also getting some new salads; we are bringing in a quinoa salad with kale, also couscous with basil and tomato. We are also working on new soups as well; there is a Thai carrot and apple soup,” Executive Chef Eric Ruhmann said.
Students have been asking for more options and longer hours.
“I wish they had more rice and meat substitutes. I really love smoothies but Kaldi’s and Freshens are not open that late,” sophomore public relations major Maddison Schneider, of Freeburg, Illinois, said.
Director of Dining Services Dennis Wobbe mentioned Freshens will extend its hours to 3 p.m. on Fridays starting next semester. The smoothie bar will stay at its usual hours of 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.
Wobbe discussed that a master plan is in the works for Dining Services to get a new look.
“We are always exploring new ways to implement new food options. We have a gluten-free dedicated area where we prepare meals as well as a dedicated storage. We are looking into upgrading our storage as a part of our master plan to remodel Dining Services,” Wobbe said.
Storage seems to be the biggest problem with being able to offer specialty items. Options like vegetarian, gluten-free and others are not sold as often, which means they are stored longer and take up more room.
“We are a service and we cater to the needs of students as best we can. Since we have been looking more into the special needs of students, we have been looking at better ways to advertise the food options. For gluten-free options we have to state that on the container or menu it is presented with. Students who need to eat this it’s great for, but other students see that and automatically think it will not taste good. This is a problem because we need to have product constantly moving,” Wobbe said.
Price is also an issue. Most of the newer products Dining Services is trying to bring in cost more to make.
“These [vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free] options cost at least 30 percent more to produce. Take the impossible burger: it sells great but it does cost three to five times more than regular ground beef,” Ruhmann said.
Over the years of offering newer options to better cater to the needs of students, Dining Services has seen only a small increase in sales. Wobbe believes better advertisement will help sell more of the specialty items.
A completely dedicated area for specialty items has been discussed but probably won’t go into effect in the near future.
“We have looked at other universities that have specific areas dedicated for vegetarian foods. The University of Illinois has something close to what we would do, but for a school that is much larger than us they only average about nine students a day purchasing from that area,” Wobbe said.
Wobbe and Ruhmann said it is their goal to be able to sell a large range of items and have them all selling quickly.
A survey designed specifically for Dining Services is in the works. As of right now, they only have small sections in other surveys like housing’s survey. Wobbe hinted toward a survey that will be dispersed to all students to better understand their needs and wants. No time frame was mentioned for the completion of the survey.
The rest of the Dining Services remodel includes a new look and added amenities.
Chik-fil-A has already been announced for remodeling at an earlier Student Government meeting. Another being discussed for an upgrade is Starbucks.
“Starbucks is another one that is going to be re-imaged that will change the queuing of the lines so they won’t be going out into the hallway, and giving it a much-needed update,” Wobbe said.
Dining Services is also looking at adding mobile ordering kiosks where students would be able to order food and pick it up at a station. Students would still be able to pay with debit cards, Cougar Bucks or with a meal plan. Locations of these stations are still being determined.
Auntie Anne’s may also receive a remodel, potentially including the addition of a Cinnabon, though this is yet to be determined. If a remodel is approved, it will not take place for about a year, where the other updates are already in the works and some will be completed Fall 2019.
“Auntie Anne’s has just acquired Cinnabon and an ice cream concept. If we re-image, for almost the same cost, we could probably add them in also,” Wobbe said.