When Douglass Dining Hall reopened this past fall, it was regularly packed with students excited to experience its new options. But that excitement soon turned to frustration as students struggled to find a seat or move around in the hall’s crowded, narrow layout.
Now, Dining Services is being praised for its particularly resourceful solution to the overcrowding issue.
“We realized the most cost-effective way to solve overcrowding in Douglass would be to simply get less students to eat at the dining hall,” explained Fu D’Makre, a member of Douglass’ management team. “A great initial target for this solution was those with food allergies.”
The CDC estimates that about one in 13 people has a food allergy of some type.
“By aligning the days in which we serve nuts and other common allergens at various stations, we can finely tune how much time some people spend in Douglass,” D’Makre said.
Instead of ham and beans, the team realized they could serve ham topped with pecans or beans with almondine sauce.
“This is a relatively small change for us, and most people don’t even notice the added ingredients,” D’Makre said.“But it’s extremely effective at decreasing the amount of people who feel comfortable eating at our main stations.”
Similarly, by alternating between pesto (which contains pine nuts) and other sauces multiple times per meal in the pasta line, management discovered it could keep people in the line guessing what type of sauce they’d receive
“I really enjoy getting in the pasta line with no idea what I will receive. It adds a lot of adventure to my day,” said Tony Paine, a sophomore who frequents Douglass.
For Dining, there is the added bonus of keeping lines shorter by discouraging people with nut allergies from taking the risk.
There are many other options within Douglass and around campus for those who have dietary restrictions, though. Students generally agree that the allergen station is a fantastic alternative.
“This is a great option for me—it provides all the variation I need,” said Andrew Fallstitch, a student interviewed from the allergen line. “Actually, I don’t have any allergies, but I’m vegetarian and this is the closest thing they offer to a salad.”
Fallstitch added: “My favorite combo is rice, quinoa, and onions, but sometimes I mix it up and get rice, quinoa, and tomatoes.”
The solution to the seating issue has, overall, gone well so far, according D’Makre. The slightly decreased number of students coming to the dining hall means that the Douglass management can now safely remove many of the tables that were in the way of walking space.
With fewer seats than before but much more floor space, it’s finally possible for students to walk in both directions at once in the hall during peak hours. Dining services is looking to continue this work by only serving black coffee at the coffee station and replacing all meat at the Kosher station with pork.
Next week: The Campus Times covers the University’s innovative practice of saving landscaping costs by building roads and new buildings over the few remaining spots of natural greenery left on campus.