May 31, 2013

Changes in store for dining

In preparation for the demolition of Pierce Tower and the subsequent displacement of students to Cathey and Bartlett Dining Commons, UChicago Dining has been planning a number of improvements and changes. While Dining officials have already decided to put Fourth Meal in Cathey during the fall and Bartlett during the winter, they have yet to determine where to move the Mongolian grill.

The Campus Dining Advisory Board, which consists of administrators and student representatives from both SG and the Inter-House Council, decided that the location of Fourth Meal for the spring will depend on which dining hall has the greatest student turnout.

During Fourth Meal’s pilot program at Pierce and Cathey Dining Commons two years ago, Pierce received turnout from all over campus, while mostly only students from Burton-Judson and South Campus Residence Halls went to Cathey. According to Richard Mason, executive director of UChicago Dining, the recent addition of house tables and nighttime shuttle routes to Cathey, as well as new campus development south of the Midway, have prompted the Board to reconsider it as a possible location.

“We didn’t have Logan and even those light towers in the Midway [two years ago]. A lot has changed since then, and now, especially with the new house tables, we plan to look at [Cathey] again,” Mason said.

The Board is also trying to decide whether to install Pierce’s Mongolian grill in Bartlett or Cathey. At Wednesday’s College Council (CC) meeting, second-year CC member Steven Wendeborn, who was present at the last Campus Dining Advisory Board meeting, said that it would cost approximately $180,000 more to place it in Bartlett than in South.

Mason said an additional concern is that “most students from Pierce are going to be eating at Cathey, so we will be weighing that heavily,” though he added, “we have a layout that works at both.”

In Cathey, two new fountain drink dispensers will be installed in the far ends of both dining rooms as well as a third in the glass seating area.

To accommodate the increased number of students dining in Bartlett, UChicago Dining plans to install tables on the third-floor track, creating about 130 more seats. In Cathey, additional space will be made by converting Burton-Judson Courts’ two club rooms, currently used as student lounges, into dining areas and connecting them to the dining hall. Each will seat around 180 diners.

Other goals for next year include working with the Gluten Intolerance Group, which certifies food service providers for gluten-free foods; improving the meal exchange program; increasing vegetarian and vegan options; and switching the plates and mugs to a product lighter than porcelain to alleviate the chance of breakage. Additionally, after the success of the “Chef’s Table” events, in which the executive chefs prepare a special entrée every other week on Sundays, chefs will increase their outreach next year with lessons and workshops in house kitchens.

Despite earlier reports that IHOP, Sonic, and Steak ’n Shake were being considered as additions to Bart Mart, Wendy’s is the determined choice to be added in a test run in the fall to gauge student interest.