This semester, NJIT’s Gourmet Dining Services has had changes made to the various meal distribution facilities. According to Marybeth Boger, Dean of Students and Campus Life, and David Arluna, Food Service Director, these alterations are aimed to benefit students the most.
GDS has now extended hours of operation on weekends to begin three hours earlier, at 8 a.m., and offers breakfast and lunch instead of just brunch. Boger explained that “last semester, students expressed concerns about not being able to eat earlier on the weekends, and now they have the opportunity to get food earlier.” With this, the late-night hours were taken away, as Arluna said that they were “barely used.” Leafs and Grains and Forte’s, like many of the other retail locations, also added extended hours in order to allow students to use their meal exchange later in the day.
The fall semester saw many students waiting in long virtual lines, sometimes over an hour, to get their food prepared at Leafs and Grains. To resolve this issue, it switched to pre-making sandwiches and salads on a daily basis. Boger stated that this ensures students receive the “freshest product” almost immediately after their orders are placed. Although this takes away the ability of students to customize their orders, “it was a decision forced to be made because wait times were just too long,” Arluna noted.
Previously located inside Highlander Commons, the grill offerings were moved to the commuter grill area, a retail location. Boger clarified, “This move allowed GDS to offer fresher food given such that the items are made to order.” With every meal, fries or vegetables are offered and sandwiches are customizable. Arluna explained the menu has also expanded, having added gluten free buns and a breaded chicken sandwich option. Additionally, students are given larger portions of items such as burgers, fries and more uniform chicken tenders. They can also choose which side they would like to add to their meals.
C-Store in Campus Center was closed due to the lack of use throughout last semester. The tech café, however, has some new items added, and on Warren Street, Village Market remains open.
Arluna mentioned that the extended retail location hours let students have more of a variety throughout the day with larger, higher quality food selections. Complaints by students often cite smaller, portioned sizes given the elimination of unlimited, continuous dining, as well as reduced selection that an in-person Highlander Commons was always stocked with, such as the fajita/omelet station, the wok station, the dessert station, etc. Arluna justified the alterations, as “these are not normal times for anyone, and we are trying to deliver the best product to the students.”
“There is always a lot of thought that goes into providing the best option for students. These decisions become a little more complex when being made in the middle of a pandemic where safety concerns are of utmost importance,” Boger explained. “I think it is important for students to know that there were a lot of discussions to arrive at the best plan that worked during these unprecedented times.”
“Students may desire to have services back to the way they were prior to the pandemic. We are all hoping to be back to normal by the fall semester,” she added. “Students may dislike the changes, but I counter that argument with the fact that they have more variety and freshly made options.”
Arluna expressed that the teams are open to hear students’ comments concerning GDS, and they will take into consideration any suggestions. Similarly, Boger addressed that the students’ collective voices are important, and Gourmet Dining Services is committed to providing a positive food experience at our university; she is certain that students will be involved as the teams brainstorm possibilities moving forward.