The good and the bad: Changes to Dining Services
In a continued effort to paint the University green, Washington University Dining Services recently unveiled changes designed to maximize ecological efficiency and enhance culinary enjoyment. Though no doubt well-intended, some of the alterations leave a less-than-The-Daily-Meal-top-university-meal taste in our mouths. But for the select number of “improvements” that actually are beneficial to the University food-going experience and the planet, we will certainly give credit where it’s due.
The new compostable to-go boxes—their prior incarnation, those recyclable cardboard boxes, never closed easily, and the new, eco-friendlier variety snaps shut—and stays shut—without much trouble. The only problem with the new boxes is its failure to achieve its full potential. We’re excited to compost, but it’s unclear exactly how we’re expected to do so. The compost receptacle in Bear’s Den is the only one at any campus dining location. If you leave food on your plate at the Danforth University Center Servery, the cleaning staff will compost it for you, but should we place our to-go boxes on the dish return? Yes, we understand that you can always recycle these new to-go boxes, but if Dining Services went to all the effort to switch, it should have put similar effort into making sure we can actually take advantage of the changes.
Frequet Wrap rewards—On a non-food packaging front, the Holmes Lounge Carvery now rewards frequent wrap consumers. Buy 10 wraps and receive a free “Carvery Groupie” t-shirt if you’re among the first 100 to complete your punch card. You can bet we’ll be braving the 12 o’clock lines for a shot at Art and Rob’s new shirt. But it may be a bit misleading that there are no free wraps. As much as we will love to be able to easily identify those with wrap addictions, we predict that there are more than a few Holmes customers who will be under the impression that they will receive a free sandwich. Riots may ensue.
The new Sizzle & Stir noodle bar—it offers hot-and-ready noodle soup bowls, an innovative switch that certainly has potential. The hours are limited for now; it remains to be seen whether it’s worth halving the stir-fry ingredient bar.
The WU restaurant series—aiming to capitalize on the recent popularity of pop-up restaurants, this semester, over five nights, 80 seats will be available for students to experience what are billed as “unforgettable private dinners.” The first pop-up restaurant isn’t scheduled until Feb. 1, so we can’t assess its success yet, but the idea is promising.
Green fryer slips—We’re not sure of the purpose of Bear’s Den fryer’s new green slips, but we aren’t particularly fond of the notion. Especially when Dining Services is avoiding waste at all costs, inundating the trash with barely used paper slips—when the previous system of ordering verbally worked just fine—is rather inscrutable. Certain vegetarian and vegan options also listed on the slips and kept behind glass next to the fryer station may warrant the slips, but when the late-night Bear’s Denizen wants mozzarella sticks, the most direct method is probably best.
The new reusable to-go box system—Wash. U. has been pushing reusable to-go boxes for some time, and like “fetch,” they don’t seem to be happening. In their newest iteration, the reusable boxes operate under a complicated token system that Dining Services believes we need a flowchart to comprehend. Each use of an Eco To-Go box (“The Sustainable Solution”) shaves 10 cents off your meal purchase price. With a $5 buy-in—unless you were one of the lucky 200 recipients of the promotional token keychain giveaway—you only need to use your Eco To-Go box 50 times to recoup your investment. Because Dining Services plans to permit program membership across a student’s tenure at Wash. U., Eco To-Go boxes should be offered at a pro-rated cost to encourage the participation of upperclassmen, who may be less inclined to take part in a program that some will only benefit from for one sememster. What bothers us the most is what remains murky. We can understand rewarding those who use reusable containers, but why don’t plates also warrant this reusable-container discount?
Dining services is continuing to evolve. While we have a number of questions about the changes, the commitment to improvement, both in terms of eco-friendliness and quality, is certainly present. There’s clearly a reason Wash. U. is rated as having some of the best on-campus food in the country. Dining Services just needs to make sure it is actually accomplishing its objective.