Dining Services

With the possibility of the return of a bigger Cocina, the completion of the library’s Starbucks and more, Dining Services has had many changes with more coming.

Hailey McKinnie, a junior public health major, said Dining Services should bring back some foods and are missing others in comparison to other schools. Like some other students, McKinnie said they’ve been hoping for Wok, a previous option that offered Asian cuisine, to return.

“I like the food. Other schools that I toured when I was a freshman, had a lot more of a variety of food. Since I've been here, they've shut a lot of things down and changed a lot of hours, and it's okay,” McKinnie said. “They just need to expand it. Like we used to have a Wok. This is the only school that I’ve toured that doesn’t have more of a variety.” 

Director of Dining Services Dennis Wobbe said Dining Services knows students want the return of Wok and that they are trying to bring back something similar, if not something equally enjoyable. 

“Little Concina’s doing okay, we like it, but it's not the same and a lot of people haven't seen what the Cocina is. So we’d like to, next year, get Cocina back and then we have some ideas for a concept that would be Asian,” Wobbe said.

Another possible update is the return of the long-awaited Starbucks cart in the Lovejoy Library, according to Wobbe.

“Our intention is to try to have it open this fall, most likely a Monday through Thursday operation. We talked to the library and we're hopeful that we will get things opened,” Wobbe said. 

Last fall was the first time the Auntie Anne’s had been open since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Wobbe said since its return, it’s been a big success. 

“Auntie Anne’s was crazy unexpected, the amount of demand we had in August, September. We were doing about 450 to 500 customers per day. This semester we’re a little bit lighter. But still above where we were pre COVID. So we’re very, very pleased with Auntie Anne’s.” Wobbe said. 

McKinnie said a personal favorite that they’d like to see on campus again is Kaldi’s Coffee, previously in the Student Success Center. 

“Kaldi’s used to be open and they had a lot. It's like Starbucks, but they had more. It's Saint Louis brand coffee. It's built in Saint Louis and it's more inclusive and they have better smoothies there too.” 

Wobbe said, unfortunately, due to current conditions, Kaldi’s Coffee is not in the immediate future.

“I know a lot of people like the option of Kaldi’s. It's kind of different than Starbucks. It's more local, it's a little bit different and it has a definite fan base. Right now that area needs a lot of construction, there's some repairs and everything needs to happen like plumbing and a lot of things, so I don't see it happening. Fall and right now we're not totally kept," Wobbe said. "Right now it does need a decent amount of plumbing and different things, infrastructure to get it back to any operation.”

Wobbe said these changes and updates will hopefully show students that Dining Services wants to improve their time on campus, which has been hard to do due to staffing shortages.

“We're down about twenty positions of our full time staff. We want to have variety in hours and operation. The first step is getting our team up,” Wobbe said. “So we are working on filling all those positions and then looking to the future of how fall will be. We know we need those positions because we're running lots of overtime right now, but trying to get expanded. We're trying to get more operations open. We have some hopefully cool changes that will be happening in the fall that will make all of the students happy.”

Megan Simmons, a senior exercise science major, expressed their concern with the lack of options for those with vegetarian and vegan diets

“It’s probably pointless for them to buy a meal plan unless they wanted a salad or something like that. It’s not really much that they can eat,” Simmons said. “You’re supposed to know what they’re serving, but it’s not always accurate. They can have the whole menu up here and you get up there and it’s something totally different. I feel like that’s like a waste of time.” 

As well as vegetarian and vegan options, Wobbe said Dining Services are aiming to make international students feel more comfortable. He said they have been trying to add more variety and diversity to the meals, including Middle Eastern, Indian and Turkish cuisine. Wobbe also said Dining Services currently hires a fairly large number of international students.

 “We're actually looking at some of the international students,  what we can do to make it feel more like home,” Wobbe said. “We went from having maybe 10-20% of our staff as international students to the preponderance. I think we have 191 international students.”

Jinson Padilla, senior civil engineering major, said he believes Dining Services could use some improvements, though he is happy with what is available now. 

“I think it's okay, it could definitely be improved upon though, as far as choice selection goes. Seems sort of repetitive after a bit. So I think just changing it up maybe every two weeks instead of every week having the same thing,” Padilla said. “They could add some new dishes, but other than that it's pretty good.” 

Wobbe said that they are actively making adjustments and plans to create a more versatile and sustainable vegetarian and vegan menu. 

“Entree’s does give us some capabilities of changing the menu up and getting different things. We've been really working hard on the salads and we're going to keep on introducing new ones. The kale salad, we're trying to get weekly,” Wobbe said. “It's really good. Looking at some other options. Honestly, we've had some issues at the beginning of this year and still going on with supply chain issues. So we're always trying to just get everything in to get the current menu.”

Despite chain issues and the staffing shortages, Wobbe said Dining Services is seeing a large increase in customers from last year at the same time.

“We're slowly coming out of the COVID experience. So from fall to spring, Paavo's Express used to be open at 2 p.m., and we open earlier at 10:30 now. Auntie Anne's, we open it up on Fridays now.” said Wobbe. If you look at this spring versus last spring, we're about 1000 more customers per day from last February. We're about 1,000 more than we were last year, which is good and we keep on slowly getting back to where we were.” said Wobbe. 

For more information, visit the Dining Services website.

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