Director of Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations Cam Schauf announced a complete overhaul of Douglass Dining Center and the Frederick Douglass Building (FDB), as well as several other changes coming to other dining facilities during an Oct. 23 meeting.
Schauf described a “complete renovation of the FDB from top to bottom” that revolves around moving the main food service area to the first floor where the bookstore used to be. Schauf said that changes are definitely coming, and Dining Services is moving “full speed ahead.”
Schauf said that a more specific timeline for the FDB construction will be released in late November. However, Schauf said the new facilities will not be open by orientation next fall, but will open later that semester.
The renovation centers around a “micro-restaurant” layout, similar to that of Danforth but with “low counters” to create a more open feel. Though the plans are not finalized, the leading proposal, designed by foodservice consulting firm Bakergroup, includes a “Street” station that features various street food from around the world, a much-expanded “Kosher” section, a hypoallergenic area where students may be able to prepare their own foods, a tentative “Comfort” station serving more typical American fare, and a “Sweet” station.
Schauf said that these changes, especially the kosher and hypoallergenic stations, are in “response to student feedback.”
Co-Chair of Projects & Services for Student Affairs Namita Sarraf said that the Students’ Association (SA) “will be involved in the process of deciding what Douglass will
look like when it’s completed.” According to Sarraf, it was not the SA’s idea to renovate Douglass, and the “funding for these projects generally comes from grants and outside donation, as opposed to from student tuition.”
Nonetheless, Sarraf said that the SA “[believes] that students will be very satisfied with the changes that will take place, as we have received a lot of feedback from students asking for more student space.”
There is also a planned “Faculty Dining” area on the first floor that Schauf said will not take swipes or Declining. The area is intended to replace the Faculty Club currently on the third floor of the FDB.
Schauf said that there are no plans to go back to having a full-service restaurant like the Meliora Restaurant that was replaced last year with the Mel Express. There is no analog to the Mel Express in the current plans for the new Douglass, though Schauf said that Dining Services “continues to look for ways to make a sit-down restaurant possible for special occasions.”
Schauf said the new facility is planned to be open seven days a week as opposed to Douglass which is currently open only five days a week. The new design for the building includes space for events on the second floor so that the first floor can be open all week.
In addition to a large event space, the second floor of the FDB where Douglass is currently located will host kitchens and potentially the new location of Grab & Go. Schauf said he expects diners to spill over outside while the weather permits and for the overall appearance of the facility to be more inviting from the outside.
The third and fourth floors of the FDB will go to the College of Arts and Sciences, though the intended purpose is currently under consideration.
Unit Marketing Manager for Aramark Kevin Aubrey revealed changes to the Commons, most notably the replacement of the Zoca station with health-foods provider Freshëns Fresh Food Studio. Freshëns, which has locations at RIT and many other colleges and cafeterias nationwide, specializes in smoothies, yogurt, crêpes, salads, and Mexican-style bowls and burritos.
Dining Services is still deciding when to close Zoca and begin work on Freshëns, which is expected to be open at the beginning of the spring semester. The bulk of the work is expected to be done over winter break, but Aubrey said Zoca might close earlier this semester, or the construction might go into next semester if needed.
Aubrey started out the meeting by delineating challenges Dining Services faces in serving breakfast. He listed inadequate hours of operation, lack of diversity in offerings, and crowding during rush times as students’ main complaints about breakfast on campus. Aubrey took suggestions from the students in attendance that included an early continental breakfast option, a Grab & Go breakfast, and better communication with professors who give early tests.
Aubrey listed changes that were made this year in response to student feedback. He listed eight findings from a study on UR conducted by the National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS), including better late night options, more healthy and vegetarian options, and pasta similar to that in Café 601 in Strong.
Sarraf noted other suggestions that the SA has made to Dining Services to improve campus food, including alleviating lines at Starbucks and Pura Vida, controlling rising prices, and expanding halal options. Sarraf said that these are propositions that the “[SA] and the administrators, as a team, are working on improving.”
Kadir is a member of
the class of 2017.