The University is relaxing COVID-19 dining protocols this semester, largely due to the 99% vaccination rate among students and biweekly COVID-19 testing. This marks a change from the COVID-19 restrictions implemented last year which included grab-and-go meals, reduced dining hours, the elimination of self-serve items, and a reduced variety of food options.
This semester, students can still eat their meals grab-and-go style, but they can also eat in some dining spaces, although seating is still reduced. In Usdan Marketplace, students can serve themselves at some food stations, a first for many first years and sophomores. Moreover, due to this year’s record student population, the University’s dining facilities are seeing increased traffic.
Resident District Manager for Bon Appétit Michael Strumpf commented on the number of students using dining facilities.
“We are experiencing very high participation rates this week,” Strumpf wrote in an email to The Argus. “While this is normal for the beginning of the semester, the added population is challenging.”
Director of Auxiliary Services Michelle Myers-Brown, who oversees operations in the Usdan University Center, added that this increase in students affected the seating in dining areas.
“We are operating with limited seating for dining locations,” Myers-Brown wrote in an email to The Argus. “We are hopeful that as the semester progresses we will be able to add seats back into the dining bays so that everyone can enjoy dining that doesn’t have to be in ‘to-go’ containers.”
To accommodate the shortage of seats, the Daniel Family Commons faculty and staff dining room has been closed to staff so that students can use that area for seating as well.
“Once we can return to normal seating levels in our student dining rooms, we will also be able to open the Daniel Family Commons for faculty/staff enjoyment as well,” Myers-Brown wrote.
Though the hope is that the dining services will continue to return to normalcy, Bon Appétit is prepared to reinstate previous COVID-19 dining procedures if the case rates begin to rise again.
“The big indication would be a high percentage of positive cases on campus, which I speculate could bring dining back to what we saw last year,” Strumpf wrote.
Some students are dissatisfied with the new dining process, particularly the long lines due to the high number of students on campus this semester.
“Even though I love that things are getting back to normal on campus, I miss the organization we had last year in the dining hall,” Alex Turtil ’24 said. “Sometimes I choose not to wait to get the food I want since the lines exceed what they ever were during the past year.”
Although the dining halls are busier than ever, there is more variety to choose from than last year.
“Dining now allows for greater variety, lots of customization, and more of the show behind the program,” Strumpf wrote.
These relaxed dining procedures mean that Bon Appétit can resume employing students.
“Dining is slowly moving back to normal with more options and self-serve available in Marketplace which allows us to utilize the Bon App team members in more normal roles such as preparing more items to select from!” Myers-Brown wrote.
Additionally, students who are living at the Inn at Middletown this semester are also experiencing changes in dining procedures.
“I have a team cooking down at The Inn for the students,” Strumpf wrote. “They order off a menu and for now pick up their meals and eat in their rooms or somewhere else.”
Any interested student can eat at The Inn, even if they do not live there themselves.
“The Inn takes meal swipes and points, [and is open] Monday through Friday [8 a.m. to 10 a.m.] and Sunday through Thursday [5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.],” Myers-Brown wrote. “The menu is amazing and it has been getting rave reviews. Any student can go.”
The Inn may be an option for students seeking variety after the on-campus eating club Star and Crescent temporarily closed this semester.
Students can also use the Wes2Go app to order from Summerfields, which is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Late Night is available at Summerfields from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. every night. Students can order beforehand on the app and pick their order up when it is ready. Pi Cafe is open Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 p.m.to 6:00 p.m. Weshop is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Friday and Saturday from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight.
Alex Turtil ’24 is an Assistant Photo Editor at The Argus.
Molly Meyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.