May 13, 2011

Fourth Meal marked by huge turn-out

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Over 1,000 students poured into South Campus Dining Hall for the first week of the late-night dining pilot, far exceeding early predictions of the program’s popularity.

The Fourth Meal program began in South Campus this week with high attendance and student satisfaction, despite a few minor complaints.

In addition to long lines at several stations on Monday night, there were some additional technical difficulties, including a fire alarm and flickering lights.

Director of Operations and Communications for Housing and Dining Services Richard Mason said 1,040 students came to the grand opening of the pilot Monday night. He added that 45 gallons of ice cream were consumed Monday night alone.

“It’s really been quite social," Mason said. “It’s a community activity, not just eating and leaving.”

Tuesday night saw 875 attendees and Wednesday had only slightly less, with 845 attendees, according to Mason. An average dinner at South Campus serves about 800 students.

Though attendance has dropped since the first night of the program, dining administrators still view the attendance as relatively high, according to Assistant Location Manager Bill Duros.

“Even half these numbers are still significant,” Mason said. “Five hundred [students] is still a typical breakfast, which we serve every day,” he added.

Attendance through the first three nights of the program already exceeded the 2,400 students that were expected to attend the program throughout the week.

Initially, only the front and main dining areas were open to accommodate students, but the dining hall had to open additional space to adjust for the unexpected influx of students, Duros said. He also said that the late night staff were almost at regular dining hours numbers, with both back kitchen workers and front serving staff on duty.

When a kitchen hood in the grill area was not kept off for Fourth Meal, unreleased smoke in the grill area caused a fire alarm to go off around 9:30 p.m., according to Aramark Director of Operations Leonard Tham. The dining hall was immediately evacuated, leaving students waiting outside for approximately 10 minutes.

“I guess we’re learning from our mistakes here,” Tham said.

Second-year and head of the Campus Dining Advisory Board Gabe Panek said that despite the “little hiccup,” the pilot seems to be a huge success.

According to Duros, electrical fluctuation caused the lights to flicker on and off occasionally during the Fourth Meal period. However, Duros said South Campus Dining Hall had an electrical engineer in the building to fix problems as they occurred.

Students have been flocking to the pilot, not only because of the need for late night snacks, but also because they want to see the program put in place next year.

First-year Ayodele Jolibois, a Pierce resident, attended Fourth Meal on Monday and said she definitely would in the future. “I want this to be continued, so I want to do my part,” she said.

Jolibois also attended late night dining at Hutch. Commons occasionally, but she favored the South Campus atmosphere and the option of grabbing food quickly or sitting and conversing with others.

As he waited in line to get an omelet, Gabriel Kalsheim, a third-year in Breckinridge, said he liked the food at Fourth Meal better than the late night dining previously offered in Hutch, but thought more stations should be opened. “I like the idea of it more [than Hutch], but this is the longest omelet line I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Some students, however, wished there were more healthy options in addition to the few fruit offerings. “It seems like it’s the most unhealthy food they offer,” first-year Joseph Walsh said. “I don’t think there’s anything on this plate that isn’t fried.”.

Mason plans to evaluate and consider other factors in addition to attendance numbers. He plans to examine the sense of atmosphere and the social aspect of the program when determining the future of the program.

Fourth Meal will be located at South Campus through tonight, and will be held at Pierce Dining Hall next week. Late night dining will be discontinued for the remainder of the year.