Since deciding to hire Bon Appétit Management Company to replace Aramark next year, the UChicago Dining and the Campus Dining Advisory Board (CDAB), which is composed of Student Government (SG) and Inter-House Council (IHC), have made more changes to the dining program.
The third floor of Bartlett Dining Commons might be converted into a lounge and dining area, according to second-year Michael Meng, a member of the SG Dining Advisory Board. During recent town hall meetings with UChicago Dining, many students expressed desires to turn the space into a hangout, study, or activity space that stays open until 3 a.m., after the rest of Bartlett closes. Before deciding on the best use of the third floor, UChicago Dining is looking for more input from student organizations, including SG, IHC, and the Socioeconomic Diversity Alliance.
According to University spokesperson Marielle Sainvilus, there will also be retail establishments opening in Baker Dining Commons at North Campus Residence Hall. The University has signed a lease with Dollop Café, a chain cafe that has eight other storefronts around Chicago, to open a new location in Baker, and is in discussions with other prospective tenants.
Besides the space for dining tables and retail, Baker will have two private dining rooms at the back of the dining area. These spaces contain projection equipment and may be reserved for student groups, campus visitors, and other guests to hold meetings and catered events within the dining hall. They are large enough for about 30 or 40 people, according to Meng.
The dining halls’ operation hours will remain the same. Fourth Meal will continue. Both Maroon Market and Midway Market will maintain late-night hours until 3 a.m. every day while the academic quarters are in session. Weekend arrangements, including Saturday night programs to replace the Saturday Night Social Clubs that Aramark conducted, are still undecided.
“UChicago Dining and Bon Appétit will continue to meet with CDAB and other student organizations to discuss dining programming and development,” Sainvilus said. According to Meng, however, since the board’s major responsibility was to choose a food provider, CDAB is no longer as involved in making decisions about the dining program as before. “These decisions are ones that are, in my opinion, much less consequential than Aramark or Bon Appétit,” he said.
While visiting the dining hall operation at Wheaton College, Meng observed that many items were made from scratch daily. “They’ll buy bones, literally big bones, and grill the shit out of them, and then make a soup stock out of that and then make you a soup,” he said.
Meng expects that the general quality of food at the dining hall will improve next year. “Bon Appétit has a different way of thinking about food than Aramark. Bon Appétit thinks about the ingredients and building from the base up,” he said.