The pandemic continues to change certain aspects of Dining Services. Most recently, Skywalk Cafe closed, joining Auntie Anne’s as a quick option no longer available to students.
Skywalk Cafe, located in the bridge between Founders Hall and Alumni Hall, is one of a few Dining Services locations that has been shut down this semester— although it was open for a short period at the beginning of the semester. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jeffrey Waple said this was because of low sales, but there are other new dining options to come in the future. One of those new options is a replacement for Eddie’s Kitchen, a dining option in the Cougar Village Commons.
“We had [Skywalk Cafe] open at the beginning of the year. But with classes being online, there [weren’t] a lot of people in that area of SIUE, and it wasn’t making much money, so we closed it and repurposed its staff to other areas,” Waple said. “We’re … looking to do some grab and go type of place in Cougar Village in what used to be Eddie's Kitchen.”
Skywalk Cafe was also closed last year due to pre-pandemic construction, so some students who had classes last semester — like freshman marketing major Dylan Perkins, of Havana, Illinois — have never eaten there.
“I’d never tried Skywalk, and I guess I have to wait even longer to do that,” Perkins said. “I even had a few classes over there last year, but I never got the chance, because it was shut down then. Then, when they opened it this year, I wasn’t even on campus.”
According to Waple, Auntie Anne’s did not open back up this semester due to guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic. Waple said a big problem was working around Starbucks, which is located right across from Auntie Anne’s in the Morris University Center, because Starbucks usually has a sizable line.
“One of the things we had to think about was we had to decongest the main thoroughfare of the MUC. We tried to think about how to get people lined up, six feet apart, but still not congest it. It’s a difficult location to operate in the pandemic,” Waple said.
Waple said Auntie Anne’s was also closed because it didn’t offer full meals and had staffing issues.
“We weren’t sure about the demand from the on-campus population. We wanted to make sure the places we had open were able to provide full meals. We have a couple of [other] places closed as well, [because] we have staffing needs, and some of that staff would have to be repurposed once Chick-fil-A is open, and that’s a higher priority,” Waple said. “It’s also not one of our high revenue venues. Those are the places that give out full meals, and we were working on them more.”
Perkins said he thought Auntie Anne’s was one of Dining Services’ more popular locations.
“It was just a thing I got a lot and now it’s gone, and that sucks. I honestly feel like the entirety of Dining Services could have been handled a little better rather than just shutting things down,” Perkins said. “Leaving places open with reduced capacity would have been nice.”
Some students were sad to see Auntie Anne’s remain closed, like junior mass communications major Brooklyn Wigger of Highland, Illinois, who said she specifically enjoyed the frozen lemonades they sold.
“I wish it were open, because SIUE has already lost itself a lot in the COVID craziness. I definitely miss it. It’s one less aspect that we have during lockdown,” Wigger said.
Regardless of current closures, Waple said he hopes everything will be able to reopen once COVID-19 is gone.
“I hope we can open it as we get some normalcy back. We just need to keep looking at the numbers and things, and reposition people and look at where the demand is for food. There’s a lot of ways it affects people on the ground,” Waple said. “We’ve had a lower amount of foot traffic at the MUC, and [with] what we’ve had to do because of health and safety, all those things play into the de-densify issue.”
For more information, check the Dining Services website.