Pierce Dining Hall celebrates $500,000 facelift

By Sara Jerome

Pierce dining hall underwent a $500,000 renovation this summer aimed at improving the appearance and organization of the food selection area.

Richard Mason, the director of Operations and Communications for Housing and Dining Services, said the University renovated Pierce because of a “desire to update Pierce to increase student satisfaction.”

“The renovation should result in a change in the way the food is prepared and cooked,” said Mason, who added that more food will now be prepared in front of students.

“This Pierce renovation is paving the way for the new dining hall, where all of the preparation and cooking will be done where the students can see it,” he said.

Mason said there has been no change in Pierce management; it is still run by Aramark.

John Cantrell, the Food Service director, noted several other changes intended to increase the variety of meals. He said the wok turned into an ethnic food station, and the dining hall also added a new toasting station, which “gives us the flexibility…to make calzones, strombolis, casserolettes.”

Mason said color-coordinated serving utensils were added to make Pierce more accommodating to vegan and vegetarian eaters.

This improvement was not lost on Pierce’s vegetarian contingent: “The serving spoons used to mix ,” said second-year in the College Daniel Benjamin, a vegetarian.

Cantrell said a vegan soup will now be offered every day.

Students and dining officials celebrated the changes with cake and balloons at dinner this Wednesday.

While most students applauded the renovation, others did not think that enough had changed. Second-year in the College Clarissa Siu said the concrete walls in the back of the dining hall are still the same, but called the overall appearance “more professional.”

Ashkay Birla, a second-year in the College, was not as positive: “There’s no sense of compromise between the old appearance and the new appearance,” Birla said.

Other students said the facility improvements did not carry over to food. The renovations “make a huge difference,” said second-year in the College Zain Gowani, sarcastically. “The aesthetic appeal just makes the food taste better.”

One common criticism has been the termination of “Waffle Wednesdays.”

“I came to Pierce on Wednesday and I found no waffles,” Gowani said. “What happened to the old Pierce that had waffles?”

Benjamin also lamented the loss of “Pasta Thursday.”

“It used to be the highlight of my week,” he said.

Three Pierce employees who wished to remain anonymous said they did not regard the changes as great improvements.

“Waffle Wednesdays” again came up as an unfortunate loss. “Students miss the things they were used to,” one employee said. Another employee said the new management should order more hamburgers, veggie burgers, and hot dogs after recent cases of understocking.

The employee said many aspects of the dining hall could still improve. “The tables, plates, and chairs are the same. Everything should be new…the appearance doesn’t make much difference,” the employee added.

Cups have long been an issue of contention at Pierce as well. Last year’s small glass cups were a source of annoyance among diners, and this year’s small plastic cups are not seen as an improvement.

“We need to work on that,” Gowani said. “I just need a sippy top, and I’ll be a four-year-old.”

The long lines are another sore spot for students. “They didn’t consider how the lines would form,” said Aksahy Birla, a second-year in the College.

Students also mentioned a need for more fruit. “My apartment needs more bananas,” said Jon Kurinsky, a second-year in the College.

“We need soft-serve ice cream,” said first-year in the College Kathleen Duffy. Other grievances included the absence of apple juice and the distance that the new set-up now places between the food and the student, which apparently causes a lot of awkward leaning.

Despite the criticisms, several Pierce diners expressed their loyalty to their dining hall.

Christine Buras, a first-year in the College, said she prefers the all-you-can-eat dining plan to Bartlett’s a la carte pricing. “And B-J is too dark,” she said.