Dining Hall sees minor shift in services, WLU conducting surveys

Minor changes were implemented at the dining hall for this year. (Photo by Rebecca Allison)

Minor changes were implemented at the dining hall for this year. (Photo by Rebecca Allison)

It’s been a year since the meal plan at Laurier switched to an all-you-care-to-eat style and the Dining Hall underwent renovations, erecting walls around the dining area to accommodate the new system. The changes sparked controversy in the Laurier community for much of the beginning of the year. With the new school year, surveys have been sent out to collect feedback on the program and food services on campus as a whole.

“In the big picture, I think the year went well. We definitely had some challenges,” said Dan Dawson, assistant vice president of student services.

The results from the surveys won’t be back until the beginning of December, but over the past year many changes have already been implemented in an attempt to resolve some of these challenges.

Dawson explained that, for example, there has been an increase in vegetarian, vegan and other meal customization options.

“I think, from the residence students perspective, we’re hoping to see that that’s reflected in their comments so that there’s a feeling of ‘I’ve got lots of choice and variety’,” he said.

While largely the dining hall targets students who are in residence, to help with busy food venues on campus in general, Subway was opened in the spring in Bricker Academic.

“We’re hoping to see some trend around that,” said Dawson. “That people will appreciate that we have one more outlet than before.”

However, even if the feedback in December is overwhelmingly negative in regard to the new system, Annie Constantinescu said they won’t be bringing the old system back. Instead, they will continue modifying in small ways.

“We think that the little things feed into the entire experience,” Constantinescu, Students’ Union president and CEO, said.

One of the changes already in place is a shortened lunch period, giving students a longer opportunity to get breakfast. The hours for lunch are now 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Hot food items to-go has also been introduced for meal plan patrons. As well, the guest passes have been increased from five to eight.

“Those types of enhancements to the meal plan program I think are going to be constant,” Dawson said. “Every year we will be evaluating how we can make the operation run more smoothly.”

This year in particular, they have put more emphasis on information going out to first-year students in residences, creating cards that focused on how to balance and manage their meal plan.

“The other thing that we’ve launched is a couple of new opportunities for non-first-year residence students to purchase mini-meal plans,” said Dawson.

Dawson said that in the past, the value plans have not been widely-purchased by upper-year students. But they are hoping that as last year’s first-year students get older they will see the value in purchasing smaller meal plans to eat a couple meals on campus each week.

“I think the biggest thing right now is to try to get everyone on campus to take the initiative to try something new like the Fresh Food Company, to experience it,” he said. “And/or to feel a little bit more  confident that there shouldn’t be as much congestion at some of the other cash retail outlets as what there has been in the past.”

Constantinescu commented on the program as a whole, saying, “It’s a little bit slow to start, but the more fresh minds that come in, they don’t necessarily know what that previous experience was like, so they can make their own assumptions or build their own opinions based on personal experience as opposed to what other people maybe experienced before them.”

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