Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 14, 2024

Dining reacts to student concerns over wait time

By Heather Barbakoff | February 22, 2008

The change in scheduling this semester has led to a variety of student complaints; they include an inability to have Fridays off, the clustering of classes in the same time slot and perhaps most unpredictably, an increase in wait time and crowding in dining facilities.

Student complaints about the increase in the number of students at the Levering Food Court around noon seem to be partially related to changes in class schedules.

The lines for both food service and checkout at this time seem to have grown longer. A meeting was also held on Monday, Feb. 18 to discuss dining and changes and alterations to Nolan's, Charles Street Market and the Fresh Food Café.

"I think that when they made the switch to making all personalizations from the pre-made it became less efficient," sophomore Adam Baumgartner said. He described how he used to be able to get lunch quickly between classes and how the Peppercorn Grill's change from self to full service increased waiting time. "I spend about 10 minutes in line to get a burger, three more while it's made and then to pay."

Allison Carlstom, also a sophomore, echoed his sentiments.

"I think that at noon it's more crowded than it used to be ... last semester that wasn't the case," Carlstom said. She too stated that it was hard to eat in Levering at noon when she has a 1:00 p.m. class.

Dining services, however, does not see an increase in congestion.

"Levering has always been challenged to serve a large number of customers in a relatively short time span. I've yet to find a food court anywhere that isn't crowded from 12-1 p.m.," said Dave Furhman, director of dining programs.

The University will respond to the demand for faster service by opening a third cash register during the 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. rush, in efforts to help improve service at all of Levering's four dining stations.

"We are constantly walking a fine line to deliver the freshest (and often customized) product in the shortest amount of time. We actively work to never sacrifice quality for speed," Furhman said.

While Nolan's had been open for lunch in the spring 2007 semester, it has not been open for lunch this academic year. This is because Nolan's had never been intended as a lunch venue, but functioned as a surrogate last year until Charles Street Market and Einstein Bros. Bagels were completed.

Similar to at Levering, students complain of long lines and long waits at Nolan's.

"You can't get a burger unless you're there at 4:45 when they are firing up the grill. I've waited 45 minutes for a Philly Cheesesteak," Carlstom said.

"If you are waiting more than 13 minutes for food, ask to see a manager. We are fighting a battle between serving food quickly and serving fresh food and juicy meats. Nothing should take longer than 13 minutes," said Carla Skornik, the culinary trainer for Aramark.

However, many students complain that the salad bar at Nolan's does not look fresh and that there is a lack of healthier items, such as fresh fruits and milk.

"The food could be better, more variety," sophomore Laura Tyler said. "There are times that the food just doesn't taste good. Usually in the Homestyle, there's a lack of taste."

Citing the longer lines for freshly-made foods like pasta and the grilling stations, many students instead choose the quicker options of either pizza or the Homestyle station. But while these pre-made items may allow for quicker service, many students complain that they are not as good as the on-the-spot menu choices.

"A plate of pasta is more healthy than a slice of greasy pizza and all of the chicken and biscuits in the comfort foods ... I can feel my arteries clogging," Carlstom said.

The introduction of the Healthy Options program at the Fresh Food Café in fall of 2007 will hopefully address this issue. The program began this semester at Levering and will be enacted in all dining facilities by next fall.

In addition to merely being a dining hall, Nolan's hosts a variety of events designed to help foster community.

Citing the removal of half price burger night, Furhman stated that the program's purpose was to introduce Nolan's to students living off-campus, while enticing all students to remain at Nolan's as a place to socialize. But the majority of patrons wished to take their burgers "to-go," rendering this goal ineffective.

"The University's hope is that Nolan's will become more to our students than just a place to eat. It was designed as a comfortable gathering spot where students or any member of the University community can meet, relax and spend time," Furhman said.

The turnout at events like "Jazz at Nolan's" and the opportunity to watch popular TV shows such as House varies according to the night.

However, with the closing of the HUT due to the Gilman renovations at the end of this academic year, Aramark has responded with the introduction of "quiet hours" on Monday to Thursday from 1:00 p.m. through 1:00 a.m.

The Fresh Food Café recently underwent menu changes; due to the attention that Aramark does give to what students post on the comment board. A cited example was the fact that the bread station was modified from whole loaves to sliced bread as a result of the negative comments on the board.

Take-out dining options at the Fresh Food Café were removed as a late-night option; however take-out is available for all three meals.

In response to student comments about patron crowding, the Fresh Food Café is trying to open more registers when there is the accumulation of a line, as well as experimenting with the placement of certain food stations to help reduce congestion in the food area. All food stations should be open for the entire duration of the Fresh Food Café's dinner hours.

At all campus dining facilities, there is a constant search for new products, recipes or ideas, particularly for the vegan and vegetarian options. Currently at the Fresh Food Café, Aramark is testing new vegetable proteins this semester, and after evaluating their success, Aramark plans to expand these options to other places.

The Charles Street Market has had its check-out lines significantly reduced, which can be attributed to a heightened awareness of when lines are starting to form.

"We have really been working towards having our employees jump to the register when they see a line.

The problem is people working at the register can't go find more help because then they would have to leave their post," Skornik said at Monday's meeting.

The Charles Street Market also now has a working DVD rental machine and the option of rotisserie chicken will once again be part of the pre-prepared food items.

- Additional reporting done by Laura Dingle


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