By Madison Myers
Elm Staff Writer
Director of Dining Services Donald Stanwick wants to make sure the dining options at Washington College fit the student body’s lifestyles and needs.
That’s why Dining Services held Town Hall meetings Feb. 20, 21, and 22 at 7 p.m. in The Egg to discuss four new dining options the school is considering. Using poker chips, students voted on their preferences at the end of the meeting.
“We’ve had these current concepts here for about four-to-five years, which is typically the lifetime of what a concept runs. We want to make sure that we bring something in that’s kind of keeping up with today’s technology, today’s trends, what students want to eat…to fit your lifestyle and your needs,” Stanwick said.
Stanwick presented five options for renovations to the students.
“I want to be clear, it’s not what I want, it’s whatever you want. So my opinions aren’t influencing this in any way,” he said.
Sophomore Jamie Solomon went to the first meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20, and she was pleased with the town hall format.
“At the end of the day we are the ones who are eating there so I’d rather have a say about what’s happening behind the scenes instead of having surprises every time I go to get food,” Solomon said.
Stanwick presented the first of four options, which is to do nothing. Dining Services would take the money set aside for renovations and “invest it back” into the dining hall. The salad bar, coffee stations, and floors are particular areas Stanwick said they would target.
The second option involves walling off the area behind The Egg and behind Java George.
“It would be similar to a restaurant. You would go up to the window at Java, you’d place an order either through a kiosk…or even through a mobile phone,” Stanwick said.
The food would be made in the back behind the wall and delievered via the window. A potential disadvantage, Stanwick said, is that the wall could create a perception of the food not being fresh.
The third option would combine Java George and Create. The menus would remain essentially the same.
“We’d…create another little store, similar to Sophie’s, except this one would take dining dollars. It would have stuff like a milkshake machine in there; we’ve talked about adding slushies in there, having more food to go…We could do stuff like having sushi from Sado,” Stanwick said.
Although the combining of Java and Create may mean that it takes longer for food to be ordered, it would also allow for further flexibility on the new Java/Create menu, like breakfast sandwiches.
Stanwick explained the difficulties of partnership with an outside brand or franchise, which students expressed interest in.
He said that Dining Services has looked into bringing a national brand like Chick-fil-A or Chipotle on campus, but he is concerned that the business wouldn’t do well enough to pay off.
“The last thing we want to do is bring a national brand in and then a year later have to take it out because we’re not making any sales…We’ve seen schools where they’ve had to take one out, and it doesn’t go over very well with the students.”
He also expressed concerns about the effects that a popular brand would have on campus, as it would probably bring crowds from the Chestertown community onto campus.
According to Stanwick, instead of introducing a national brand, imitating a brand’s concept and offering similar products to popular food chains is a much more plausible option for WC.
The fourth option is to keep Java George the same, but to change Create and Martha’s into imitation concepts.
Stanwick suggested switching the concepts every eight weeks, about halfway through each semester.
“They’re very easy to change over,” he said. “What it does is it keeps it fresh, it’s always changing. Then again, that means the menu is always changing.”
This constant rotation could be problematic to students who like to be familiar with the food that they’re eating.
“I am a picky eater and I wouldn’t go there as much to get food if there wasn’t something I knew I wanted,” Solomon said.
Stanwick also discussed changes being made to the current meal plans. Next year, Dining Services will eliminate the restricting schedule of meal exchange entirely, creating a set amount of dining dollars that can either be used upstairs or downstairs.
Solomon said, “The dining hall is nice for when I have time to go with roommates or sisters but if I don’t I’d rather just grab something between class or before going to my dorm.”
This change would provide more options for students with a busy schedule, according to Stanwick. Dining Services is also exploring increasing the vegan and vegetarian options both upstairs and downstairs.
The fifth option was a write-in option where students can suggest a concept or idea that Stanwick personally reads.
“We need the feedback. One of the reasons we’re trying to conduct these this week is we’re trying to say, ‘Give us the feedback,’ what you want to see, what you want to have,” Stanwick said.
In response to the options presented at the Town Hall, Solomon said, “I think what they came up with so far are great and really looking to capture the concerns that students have and implement options that fit every type of schedule for students on campus.”
The total votes of all three meetings will determine which option will be implemented this fall.