Dining Services looks to Brown School cafe, Eco To-Go for changes next year

| Staff Reporter

Despite the influx of sophomores into the Village next year, Dining Services expects few changes to the eatery. Instead, changes to campus dining will come from the new Brown School cafe and other areas that are less visible to students.

According to Paul Schimmele, Danforth campus dining services manager, Dining Services will be monitoring demand at the Village dining area to see if adjustments are needed, but does not have any current plans to change its hours.

Among the changes that are planned for next year, Schimmele said, are updates to the Eco To-Go system and adjustments to compensate for recent changes to Dining Services and Bon Appetit management staff.

The Village dining area, which serves students who live on the North Side of campus in residential life and fraternity housing, will be monitoring changes with an increase in the numbers of sophomores. Dining Services has a plan to expand the serving area, beginning with a new dishwasher machine being installed this summer.

The new dishwasher is part of a pre-existing plan to meet increasing demand in the Village dining area, which arose from the creation of the Village East apartments and the loss of chefs at the fraternity houses.

Schimmele explained that the Dining Services team tracks when people come to eat on 15- to 30-minute increments at every dining location. They have added and retracted hours in their various dining locations over the years based on demand.

Schimmele said that he didn’t expect the number of sophomores to impact dining.

“I don’t think…that the sophomores are incredibly different from the juniors. And even if they were, the percentage change isn’t going to be so significant that it would make a true impact,” Schimmele said. “The total number of people that will be at the Village in essence is the same as this year, is the same as last year, so we don’t anticipate a big change.”

Schimmele explained that the cuisine served is also based on demand.

“It’s only so big, so you can’t have everything there. And we try to make sure the same things aren’t served all over,” Schimmele said. “For example, we used to serve pizza there; it just didn’t have a demand. The stir-fry there, if you ask most students, is the best stir-fry on campus.”

Sophomore Lindsay Gittelman lives in the Village this year and has enjoyed the food.

“The village prepares each order individually in its own pan so everything is equally mixed and you don’t get anything other than what you ordered. Another pro is the salad station, which is my personal favorite,” Gittleman said.

Junior Laura Perez, however, believes that the Village would benefit from more variety.

In addition to potential changes with hours and services, Dining Services is also working on more logistical improvements. Dining Services hopes to incorporate the “Eco To-Go” system into the campus card. Currently, the system uses a key chain as a currency for the Eco To-Go boxes, with participants turning in the key chain to get the box and receiving one upon returning it.

Though they were hoping to have a pilot program done this spring, setbacks have pushed the program to be tested this summer instead. Schimmele hopes it will be ready to roll out on a full scale in the fall.

Freshman Julia Widmann uses the Eco To-Go system, but sees how it could improve by integrating with campus card.

“It will make the system so much more convenient, especially for those who just carry their phone and cards,” Widmann said.

According to April Powell, director of marketing and operations, Dining Services will also see changes with the cafe, Grounds for Change, in the new Brown School of Social Work building opening in August 2015. This will be the first-ever Brown School eatery run by Dining Services—the current eatery is run by graduate students.

Dining Services has recently lost Nadeem Siddiqui, former resident district manager from Bon Appetit. According to Schimmele, Bon Appetit will be working to replace Siddiqui over the summer.

“The leadership and the things that Nadeem has contributed over the years, we have the strongest dining team that we’ve ever had, and I would guess it has to be one of the strongest in the country.”

Steve Hoffner, Washington University associate vice chancellor for operations, whose responsibilities include Dining Services, will also be leaving this summer.

“When you look at what dining was 20 years ago…it doesn’t compare to what we have today. The contributions that Steve has made to dining during that time…he’s been the force behind it from the University’s side for many years,” Schimmele said.

Hoffner’s job will be divided into smaller parts and distributed among several members of the administration, but much of it will be delegated to Tara Bone, the new assistant vice chancellor for operations.

“In one sense, I’d say, students won’t know they’re gone. From the business perspective, we’ve got a really strong team here. But they’ll both be really missed here. On a personal and professional basis,” Schimmele said.