Anyone who regularly eats at Chase and Emerson, which is most of the student body, knows the plight of on-campus cuisine. We’ve all complained, or at least have heard our friends complain, about the limited choices, or the problematic dining hours or the overall blandness of the dining experience. We accept this because this is college, and we do not attend Cordon Bleu. As a small school with a smaller student body, dining planning can be difficult.
However, the student body is getting larger, and with that change comes expansion of facilities. Recently, plans for improving the dining halls have come to fruition through a vote taken by Wheaton’s Board of Trustees to authorize the project in February. For more than half a year, the administration has been attempting to move this project forward through Aramark, student surveys and faculty and staff.
Vice President for Finance and Administration Brian Douglas, said “We reached out to all stakeholders, including students, through surveys, the SGA and other meetings, as well as faculty, staff, alumnae/i and trustees. The input was then reviewed by the administration and Aramark to develop a set of improvements that would meet, in particular, student interest in more choice, fresher more made to order food, and better dining environments.”
Architects are being consulted and conceptual drawings are underway. Now, what exactly is being done to our dining halls?
According to Douglas, the Balfour-Hood Café will be the first to be renovated. There will be an updated menu emphasizing locally and environmentally sourced foods. This change should be completed at some point in 2014.
Chase’s renovation will take up more time, as both square and round will go under intensive modification. Food preparation will move out from the kitchen and into new, made-to-order cooking stations where students can watch their food being prepared. In addition to the changes in the food preparation, there will be new seating, lighting and furnishings.
Replacements in Chase will range from dish return to major electrical upgrades and plumbing systems, which are currently outdated. These changes are set to begin after spring break in 2015. While the construction is going on, alternative dining options will be offered until the end of that spring term. Work will continue over Summer 2015 so that students will be able to use the renovated space upon their return in Fall 2015.
Emerson, on the other hand, will go through fewer structural renovations. Its renovations will include new seating, lighting and the installation of a dance floor. The menu, however, will go through several revisions to become a “Panera-style retail venue.” These changes are expected to be put into place during winter break of the 2015-2016 academic year.
With more retail venues on campus, and in accordance with student feedback, returning students will have two new meal plan options available to them. Each would have incrementally more Lyons Bucks and meals per plan. A “Lyons Swipe” is in the works, which will allow students to convert Lyons Bucks into a meal if they would rather use the Lyons Bucks.
With the prospects of new menus, newly revamped dining halls and meal plan options, students should expect to have a transformed experience and a newfound appreciation for campus dining during the next three years.