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Monday, May 20, 2024
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What’s new with dining at AU?

An overview of new dining options and the decisions behind them

As American University students return to campus navigating new meal plans, they are also adapting to a new restaurant scene. Subway and Starbucks received major upgrades while new locations opened on campus, including Panera and, soon, Qdoba. 

Restaurant franchises on the University’s campus are required to renovate every 10 years to renew brand contracts, and updates to the Terrace Dining Room are common over the summer break, according to Michael Scher, the assistant vice president of auxiliary services. 

Scher said that the changes reflect student feedback and showcase collaboration between the Offices of Auxiliary Service and offices of student engagement. 

The Eagle toured the new dining locations with Scher and Lou Christopher, resident district manager for Chartwells, to learn more about the updates and the considerations behind them. 

TDR and student feedback 

An updated TDR offers cold cuts at the allergy-friendly station, international cuisine options replacing the “homestyle” section, a rotisserie station in the evenings, a smoothie and espresso bar and a new pasta station. A once-popular soft serve machine has also returned to TDR, according to Scher. 

TDR debuts new stations.jpg

Scher and Christopher said that the changes in TDR reflect student feedback from surveys, student meetings with dining officials, student comments to dining workers and responses from feedback buttons near the entrance to the dining hall. He added that AU Kitchen monitors social media accounts to see how students are responding to dining options. 

Each month, AU Kitchen invites various student organizations for “Dine with the Directors” meals and hosts dining committee meetings open to all students. Scher and Christopher said that they would like to see higher attendance at both meetings, and the committee will release information about how to attend later this month. 

Christopher said getting feedback from students was paramount, but called it the “greatest challenge” in deciding what changes to make.  

Scher and Christopher said the University also considered which stations had been successful at other schools served by Chartwells, the University’s dining services provider. For example, the “United Table” station, which offers foods from around the world, was found to be popular at George Washington University. 

Panera and MGC

Panera opened fully on Sept. 1, filling the space formerly occupied by Einstein Bros. Bagels and Paper Lantern. The restaurant came to campus after AU noticed students were frequently using their EagleBucks at its Tenleytown location,  Ann Marie Powell, senior director of dining and auxiliary services, said in a previous interview with The Eagle.

Panera will be open seven days a week throughout the semester, unlike other campus locations that close on weekends. Students can use meal exchanges for all three meals at Panera, with the options of breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal or bagels in the mornings and Panera’s “You Pick Two” menu for lunch and dinner. 

Panera opens on the first floor of MGC.jpg

The MGC marketplace, the study spaces next to Panera, also got an upgrade. Furniture installed during the first week of classes completed the area with a variety of seating setups. According to Scher, this installment serves as a pilot study for AU to gauge which types of seating setups students prefer.

Surveys posted on placards around the furniture enable the University to collect data throughout the fall semester. Scher said this data will guide decisions about upgrading furniture elsewhere in MGC and the future Student Thriving Complex.

New furniture in MGC gives students more space to study and socialize.jpg

The Tunnel

Qdoba, a popular Mexican food chain, is set to open a few weeks into the semester due to delays in licensing requirements. Though construction is now complete, the University is still working to obtain licenses for the venue, according to Christopher. 

Qdoba is set to open new location in the Tunnel soon.jpg

The restaurant comes to AU after the Undergraduate Senate requested a Mexican restaurant on campus, according to Powell in a prior interview with The Eagle. She added that AU decided to bring in Qdoba because students are familiar with the brand. 

In the meantime, AU will offer special promotions for Qdoba outside its location in the Tunnel and in the MGC Tavern, according to an email from Bronté Burleigh-Jones, the University’s chief financial officer. 

When Qdoba opens, it will serve students from 12 p.m. until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. until 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturday, according to a document provided by Scher. 

Down the road from Qdoba, the renovated Starbucks and Subway locations debuted new looks for the fall semester. 

Subway and Starbucks franchises show off new looks for the fall semester.jpg

While renovations at Subway simply refreshed the location’s appearance, Starbucks’ renovations included adding a second espresso machine and a separate nitro brew station. The coffee shop also boasts new counters, new furniture and a community chalkboard. 

Starbucks gave AU extra time to renovate its campus location after the coronavirus pandemic, and granted AU a year to link the campus location and meal plan credit with the Starbucks mobile ordering app, according to Scher.  

Moving forward 

A recent community-wide dining update hinted at an upcoming change to TDR, but Scher declined to provide additional information. 

In the meantime, AU Kitchen will continue to work with students to get feedback and make adjustments, Scher said. He encouraged students to provide feedback by talking with staff and managers at dining locations, emailing or making an appointment with AU’s dietician.  

Additionally, AU plans to send out a community-wide survey in mid-November to gauge student reactions to the updates and may make adjustments based on its results. 

“We will make changes based on [the survey], they could be minor or major,” Scher wrote in an email to the Eagle. “We do not limit ourselves in advance, but let the data guide us in determining what changes to make based on available resources.”

This article was edited by Tyler Davis, Jordan Young and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis.

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