Staff editorial: Bringing Bear Bucks back to campus
Dining Services recently announced to Student Union its 10-year plan for improving dining services. Given that the undergraduate population is expected to expand significantly within the next decade, the plan focused on changes to existing dining services, particularly during lunchtime on the Danforth campus. But as Wash. U.’s dining services are consistently ranked in the top 10 in the country among national universities, this is a great opportunity to continue that standard of excellence by continuing to think outside the standard dining-hall model.
This fall, Bear Bucks has continued to expand past frequented local establishments such as Bobo Noodle House and Blueberry Hill to lesser-known establishments such as Yoga Six and Winslow’s Home. Encouraging students to visit these establishments by working with them to expand Bear Bucks is a great way to give students more choices and also to encourage interest in the St. Louis food scene. But particularly in light of the success Einstein Bros. Bagels has seen since its opening in Simon Hall two years ago, Wash. U. should look to bring more Bear Bucks-friendly establishments to campus. Ideally, the newest wave of Bear Bucks expansions would bring both local eateries and larger chains right to campus, where students would be most likely to take advantage of the new options.
The Seoul Taco food truck, which stops by the Catholic Student Center every Friday, has proven immensely popular with students. Working with other local food trucks and businesses to expand food-truck presence on campus, if only weekly, would be beneficial for both students and local businesses, particularly if it were possible for students to use Bear Bucks. Food Truck Fridays are a monthly St. Louis staple, offering visitors to Tower Grove Park a variety of local food vendors including 2 Girls 4 Wheels and Holy Crepe. Seoul Taco now has a storefront on the Delmar Loop; given how many students got their first tastes of the Korean-Mexican fusion on campus, it will probably attract a lot of student business. It’s not always feasible for students to go off-campus to experience all the St. Louis food scene has to offer. Bringing the food scene to Wash. U. would not only expand our palates but also would give us a deeper connection to the St. Louis community, conceding the fact that many people will not venture outside the Wash. U. bubble.
The Danforth University Center handles a heavy crowd every day at lunch—and given the projected increase in student enrollment—more options will soon become a necessity. The as-yet unfilled space in Umrath Hall, which previously housed Subway and, before that, a bar-grill known as the Rat, would be another great place to begin. The space, which has been vacant since fall 2010, has been the subject of much speculation and brainstorming. As recently as 2010, SU representatives floated plans for a new bar and grill; another option would be to bring in a larger chain, such as Taco Bell, particularly given the undesirable location of the one nearest campus. With the seemingly ever-shrinking Ursa’s hours, more late-night options would be especially welcome, a niche that could be filled by a chain establishment that would undoubtedly be extremely popular on campus.
The 10-15 year plan anticipates the need for both expansion and refurbishment. In particular, the Village Cafe will need new equipment in the next four to five years. These changes will obviously not be immediate, but given the success of the Bear Bucks program and increasing interest in local food, bringing more Bear Bucks options to campus is a natural progression. And if Bon Appétit continues to make all students purchase meal plans, Dining Services will not lose much student business; students themselves only stand to benefit from expanded options.