The New and Improved Dining Hall

Maria Wittenauer – 

This summer, Cummings Dining Hall underwent some major changes.

The Rambler talked to Director of Dining Services Joe Werts and Student Senate Student Life Committee Chairman Manny Tshimoa about these changes. Most are pretty obvious once you get past swiping your card, such as a new layout including new flooring, equipment, lighting, and even new plates.

According to Werts, the only aspects that were kept were the soda and juice machines and the staff. However, the changes go past the obvious visual ones.

With the new layout, there is meant to be a better flow of getting the food, more options, and an enhanced display and presentation.

For example, the more spread-out stations, like the sandwich station, is meant to lessen the number and length of lines. Also, more of the actual cooking of the food has been brought to the front so that students can see the food being made and that the ingredients are fresh, not frozen.

Werts says that it is not necessarily more efficient than the old set up, but rather differently efficient. There are more challenges with preparation with more people out front than in the back, but this is a good change. From a business point of view, it is different, but as for the food itself, some is the same, while the preparation is different; the same ingredients are being used, but they are being used in continuously different and new ways.

According to Tshimoa, these improvements are good ones.

The fact that there are more stations, less lines, and more opportunities to get what they want, as well as the fact that students can come to the dining hall and cook for themselves, are all good improvements.

He sees it as a good thing that the dining hall employees are responsible for the different stations as opposed to “floating” around the dining area like they did in years past.

As for the change in hours of the various venues, this was a carefully planned out decision. Tshimoa and Werts worked together to figure out the new hours, so it was not a decision made purely by the staff. The changes were made because last year, the lines in the dining hall and sub shop were too long during lunch hours.

Students wanted another venue open for lunch, and they got that this year with the grill being open for lunch in addition to the dining hall and sub shop. However, running all three venues at lunch also means that costs increase. To balance these costs so that students did not have to pay more, hours had to be cut elsewhere. Since the coffee/sub shop is not as busy in the late afternoon/evening hours, these were the hours that were cut.

Tshimoa says that he is happy that he and the rest of the students got what they wanted; three venues open for lunch without added cost to us.

It is important to note that, according to Werts, these changes were tried last year, but the necessary facilities were not yet in place. He says that there are more improvements to be seen in the future, like the pizza station possibly including casseroles.

The new dining hall, while certainly proving to be a much-needed upgrade, is very much still a “work in progress.” Dining Hall (student senate FB Page)

Maria Wittenauer, from Springfield, Illinois, is an undecided sophomore thinking about an English major at Illinois College. Maria is a writer for The Rambler and a member of SAB, Art Club, and Newman Club.

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