University introduces new restaurants into the dining scene

| Junior News Editor

Bri Nitsberg | Student Life

Washington University has introduced 5 new local restaurants to campus, while also changing pre-existing dining locations such as the Danforth University Center (DUC) and Bear’s Den (BD) dining halls.

The new restaurants include Beast Craft BBQ and LaJoy’s Coffee Cafe in the Schnucks Pavilion, Collins Farm in Anheuser Busch Hall, Corner 17 in Olin Library, and The Fattened Caf in McKelvey Hall.

The University is prioritizing bringing local Missouri or St. Louis restaurants on campus, in a similar model to Coffee Stamp in Hillman Hall. 7 of of the 8 local restaurants on campus are women or minority owned.

Director for Dining Services Andrew Watling explained why the University has taken on these local restaurants. 

“With Bon Appetit leaving, that opened us up to having an opportunity about how we think about dining on campus and how we do it,” Watling said. “This was an opportunity to do something really exciting, not just purchase food from local restaurants, but give them an operational space to have an impactful opportunity with our campus. We want to be a partner with these restaurants.”

Watling said that, along with the local restaurants being brought to campus, Sodexo was also hired after intensive vetting to confirm that they could meet the unique needs of the University’s dining services. 

“Sodexo has helped us with expanding our allergen friendly menus, our halal menus, and things like that,” Watling said. “We have expanded the Simply Made space at the DUC, our allergen friendly station, and we have a build-your-own grain and rice bowl that’s free of the top 9 allergens.”

All food at Village Cafe will be halal, Watling said.

Given the focus on job stability during this transition, Watling said that every Bon Appetit employee on campus was offered employment with Sodexo with the same level of seniority, pay, and benefits, which 97% of Bon Appetit employees ultimately accepted.

Jennifer Smith, Vice Provost for Educational Initiatives, said that, in regards to bringing the new restaurants onto campus, a lot of the value arises from the diversity and representation that comes with them.

“It’s different cuisines that people may otherwise not try,” Smith said. “I hope it encourages them to go off campus and visit these folks brick and mortar or food trucks off campus.”

Smith also said that there is intrinsic value in partnering with the St. Louis community broadly, and that connecting these partners with University students is crucial.

Watling echoed these sentiments, expressing that the University is aiming to connect students with genuine, authentic food.

“I hope that students can find a place where they belong,” Watling said. “Food is a key part of our identity — who we are, where we come from. Food is such a big part of nourishing you and giving you a home. With the local restaurants coming in, I hope that there’s another level of authenticity and representation that students can find.”

Sophomore Jack Zhou said his experiences with campus dining have been better this year.

“[Campus dining] has definitely improved a lot,” Zhou said. “The overall quality, it has gotten more delicious. The food in general has just gotten to a higher level.”

He also said the presentation of the food, especially in BD, has improved greatly, though he also mentioned it is noticeable that prices have gone up. 

While Bon Appetit had contracts with essentially the whole Danforth campus, Sodexo’s contract only applies to BD, the DUC, the Village dining hall, and University concessions at sporting or other events. Watling explained the reason for this is to allow the local restaurants more flexibility. 

Sophomore William Wu expressed that campus dining has improved, but he is concerned about the increased traffic in places like Olin. 

“It’s really crazy,” Wu said. “This is the place to go in-between classes to get something and relax, but the traffic is so long all the time and it’s difficult to come here now.”

Watling also said the new restaurants did not have to provide much upfront maintenance. The restaurants do not have to do as much upkeep as the University covers most of it. 

“We collect a commission to fund operations of the building and the equipment,” Watling said. “One of the unique things about the setup is that we didn’t ask any of the restaurants to come in with any up-front investment, as we own most of the equipment and perform upkeep of the buildings. We collect commissions to make sure that they still have full resources. We market for them, all of that kind of stuff.”

First-year student Camila McGinley expressed she likes the current dining on campus.

“I really like Bauer,” McGinley said. “Also, Subway has been really good.”

Watling stressed multiple times that there were far easier ways for the University to handle dining, but they specifically wanted to go above and beyond with the new options.

“Our team is very focused on the student experience,” Watling said. “Universities tend to do dining on a business transaction basis, but we want to make sure we’re doing something different — something that makes WashU special. When you choose to go here, you’re getting an experience that is unique to WashU and to St. Louis.”

Watling noted that on the Dining Services website ( there are opportunities for students to join the DSAT, the dining service advisory team, or become mystery shoppers (a student who goes to dining locations, purchases food and reviews their experience to dining services while acting as a normal student) for University Dining.

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