Bartlett Hall may transition to buffet dining

By Rachel Cromidas

After long workouts with the University’s men’s track and field team, first-year Jake Jordan needs to eat—a lot. So when Jordan was faced with a choice between the à la carte pay plan at the Bartlett Dining Hall and an all-you-can-eat, buffet-style plan at Pierce Dining Hall, Jordan chose Pierce.

“I switched to the Traditional Freshman plan so that I wouldn’t have to pay per item,” Jordan said. “Bartlett doesn’t give me enough food for the money [I] have to spend.”

Hoping to cater to students like Jordan who are unsatisfied with Bartlett’s dining points system, the University’s housing and dining services is considering converting Bartlett to an all-you-can-eat dining hall for the 2009-2010 academic year.

According to Richard Mason of the University’s housing and dining services, the Bartlett dining system has both disadvantages and advantages. While the Bartlett system does not give students the flexibility to eat at other dining halls, it does have a take-out option not afforded to those who eat at Burton-Judson and Pierce.

“In Burton-Judson and Pierce, about 75 percent of the meals available are [used by the end of the year], whereas at Bartlett about 93 or 94 percent of those meal points are used,” Mason said. “It’s an issue of equity that we feel like we have to deal with.”

Director of Undergraduate Student Housing Katie Callow-Wright said she is consulting a panel of students on the proposed changes to the Bartlett dining experience.

“Students overwhelmingly expressed that [buffet-style dining options] fostered more of the community development that house tables foster. Students are encouraged to stay longer, get a cup of coffee or a second dessert, or something like that,” she said.

According to Callow-Wright, the new dining hall that is slated to open in the fall of 2009 along with the new dorm south of the Midway, will feature buffet-style options.

“We decided that we would consider making Bartlett all-you-care-to-eat at the same time,” she said.

This would mean converting several stations such as the deli into self-serve stations, as they are at Pierce and Burton-Judson, she said.

Bartlett opened in 2002 as a buffet facility, but administrators changed it to à la carte service after determining that the facility did not have the capacity to support all-you-can-eat services.

“It was a little bit chaotic. Bartlett was kind of a magnet for students from across the University system, so students flocked to Bartlett for dinner,” Callow-Wright said.

However Callow-Wright said that she does not believe Bartlett will have this problem in 2009 when it reinstates its buffet-style options. By this time, the new dining hall south of the Midway will be large enough to accommodate students from Burton-Judson and the new dorms while providing brand-new cooking and serving facilities, she said.

But some students worry that the quality of the food at Bartlett will diminish if Bartlett resumes its buffet options.

“If you make Bartlett all-you-can-eat, it will be just as awful as Pierce,” second-year Wayne Tie said.

Despite these concerns, Callow-Wright said that, “It would be unacceptable from our perspective if the food quality at Bartlett changed [because of the decision].”

Students who eat at Bartlett also said that they value the ability to decide how many dining points they want to spend at a meal.

“I don’t mind just getting PB&J. I think I eat a lot more [at Pierce] than if I had to actually pay for the food [à la carte],” first-year Emily England said.

But Callow-Wright may have the solution to England’s problem. She proposed a plan for the new dining hall, and possibly for Bartlett as well, that would allow students to swipe their cards multiple times in the morning or the evening for technically the same meal. This way, students wouldn’t waste an entire meal if they wanted only a cup of coffee before an 8 a.m. class, followed by brunch at 11 a.m.

“The possibility of unlimited meal-swipes does exist,” Mason said. “This works at other schools…because there’s a limit on how much stuff you can eat.”