What to expect from WU dining this semester: New cafes, closures and other changes on campus

| Managing Editor
People wearing masks stand on either side of a hallway with a brown and beige tiled floor, facing windows with trays and food items in them. Banners reading "Trattoria Verde," "Delicioso" and "Bear's Top 8 Friendly" hang from the ceiling.Brian Cui | Student Life

Students wait in line to order food at various dining stations in the DUC

Students returned to campus this week to find revamped dining experiences including the new Bytes Cafe on the East End, as well as new stations and food options elsewhere.

The changes also include the permanent closure of the Einstein’s Bagel’s Bros. location in Simon Hall and the reopening of the Law School Cafe.

Bytes Cafe opened in McKelvey Hall this August. Associate Director for Dining Services Andrew Watling is optimistic that the availability of Starbucks products will eventually make Bytes a frequent stop for engineering students.

“[Bytes Cafe] is a ‘we proudly brew Starbucks’ location,'” Watling said. “I’m expecting that to be pretty popular just because it’s Starbucks and you can get it on your meal plan.”

The existing Starbucks location, in Bauer Hall, will remain. Sophomore Kate Bircher said that despite Bytes being far from her dorm, she is excited for the new option.

“It’s really great to have Starbucks in another location,” Bircher said while waiting in line at Bytes. “It’s a little bit harder especially since [I] live on the South 40, but if you’re on campus, you can stop by.”

One new dining option that was popular last year is Stanley’s Sushi and Tea at Lopata Hall, which offers sushi, bubble tea and poke bowls.

“[Stanley’s] was hugely popular last year, and we expect it to be hugely popular this year,” Associate Director for Dining Services Andrew Watling said. “I think it’s good sushi, and we tried really hard to keep the price point at a really reasonable level, so you can get a sushi roll for $6.25.”

Dining Services further adjusted the coffee scene on campus by introducing Peet’s Coffee at Cafe Bergson in the Danforth University Center and opening Chameleon Coffee, a company specializing in cold brew, at the Village, its first-ever Midwestern location.

The Law School Cafe will also finally reopen after being closed for all of last year.

However, the reopening process is not yet entirely complete. Grounds for Change Cafe, which closed last year, will remain closed for the fall, though Dining Services hopes to reopen the cafe in the spring.

“Just based on how many people are going to be in Hillman Hall at the Brown School, it’s just not going to be a lot still,” Watling said. “So we’re keeping that closed for now, but we are looking at updating that and giving it a fresh look when it opens.”

Though new dining options on campus have emerged from the pandemic, not all survived. Einstein’s Bros. Bagels, a popular location for business school students, officially closed in March, with administrators citing other potential uses of the space.

Students expressed disappointment regarding the closure.

“I have some nostalgic attachments to [Einstein’s] because freshman year it was my breakfast most mornings and they have decent peanut butter,” junior Daniel Goldberg said in May. “It’s a staple of campus food and it adds good diversity. It’s going to be missed.”

In addition to closures, the pandemic also forced Dining Services to adopt new practices in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, including mobile Grubhub ordering. Grubhub is still an option at nearly every station on campus, but Watling said he was hesitant to further encourage mobile ordering.

“We’re trying to be careful about putting [mobile ordering] into too many places, because we just don’t want to lose the personal [element] that you can get when you’re going in person,” Watling said. “At the same time, I think Grubhub has been a really important tool last year, and I think it’s going to keep being a really useful tool for students.”

Another pandemic practice that will continue in a limited capacity this semester is requiring students to show their COVID-19 screening app in order to order food.

“Last year you had to show [the screening app] before you went anywhere dining related,” Watling said. “This year we scaled it back a little bit and we’re just focusing on some of the main locations, and even then it’s really just the peak times they’re really busy.”

Symptom screening will generally be required at the Bear’s Den, the DUC, the Village, Parkside Cafe and Whispers Cafe around the peak hours for each location––lunchtime at the DUC, Parkside and Whispers, and dinnertime at BD and the Village.

South 40 residents can also look forward to a number of improvements, including a renovated Paws & Go market with doubled shelf space, three new “Sally the Salad Robot” vending machines and a “top eight allergen friendly” station at BD, which provides meals free of the eight most common allergens.

Although Watling is optimistic about dining for the fall semester, he emphasized the importance of students continuing to comply with COVID-19 guidelines in order to ensure that the rest of the semester goes smoothly.

“We got through I think some of the worst parts of [the pandemic], but it’s still a real challenge asking somebody to show up to work and work in a grill for eight hours a day with a mask on,” he said. “That’s not easy to do… but so far this year [students have] been great as well, and that makes it a lot easier.”

Matthew Friedman contributed reporting.

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