DDS and KAF announce changes

by Jessica McDermott | 9/21/18 2:25am

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by Adrian Russian / Adrian Russian/ The Dartmouth

During peak meal hours, students frequently face long lines at Collis Café and Courtyard Café. However, these overcrowded dining establishments may soon see a thinning of crowds as DDS aims to draw more students to Class of 1953 Commons.

Director of Dartmouth Dining Services Jon Plodzik said that the long lines at Collis Café and Courtyard Café do not reflect well on Dartmouth’s dining program as a whole.

“We’re trying to make ’53 Commons a go-to destination for the [Dartmouth] campus,” Plodzik said.

Some of the recent changes in ’53 Commons include structural renovations, such as changing the seating in both the North and South dining rooms, Plodzik said. He added that students have raised the concern that the long table-seating made it difficult to sit with smaller groups, so DDS added booths and smaller tables to accommodate smaller eating parties. Plodzik said the old booths from the South Dining Room — often called the “light side” by students — were re-purposed and moved to the second floor.

There are also new televisions upstairs to encourage a more social atmosphere, he said. Additionally, Plodzik said DDS added a dining table on the second floor overlooking the North Dining Room — otherwise known as “dark side” — that students can reserve for meetings or hosting visitors.

Plodzik also said that DDS added a carpet in the South Dining Room to improve the acoustics of the room.

“Everything you touch is part of dining,” Plodzik said, “It either adds to your experience, or it takes away.”

Evalyn Li ’21 said that she appreciates the renovations in ’53 Commons and believes they have made the space nicer.

In addition to improving seating arrangements, Plodzik said that DDS has also implemented many menu changes to improve the dining experience at dining halls around campus.

The “World View” area at ’53 Commons has become “Sauté Fresh,” with made-to-order omelettes at breakfast and a stir-fry station during lunch and dinner. Other additions to ’53 Commons this term include pre-made sandwiches, nitro-cold brew coffee, more cereal choices and an upgraded deli with the option for students to toast their own sandwiches.

Collis Café, meanwhile now offers acai smoothie bowls, and the Courtyard Café carries the plant-based Impossible Burger.

Although DDS is including more vegetarian options, like the Impossible Burger, ’53 Commons general manager Brandon Crosby said he wants to assure students that DDS will not be taking away their cheeseburgers. Rather, these menu additions are all about giving students more choice, he said.

“It’s about educating, and showing you that healthy food can be delicious too,” Crosby said. “It can be just as good to have an Impossible Burger as a quarter-pounder.”

Plodzik said that this year, DDS is placing greater emphasis on local and regional food procurement. Some items are labeled so that students can see where their food comes from, he said.

King Arthur Flour’s location in Baker-Berry Library also focuses on locally-sourced foods, according to KAF managing director John Tunnicliffe. He said that this year, KAF switched its yogurt to a local Norwich brand, which students can get served with KAF’s house-made granola. Tunnicliffe said that KAF will continue to use Mocha Joe’s Roasting Company coffee, a Vermont-based coffee roaster.

KAF has also shifted its menu to better accommodate the large number of students who frequent the café, Tunnicliffe said.

He added that the tight labor market in the Upper Valley makes it difficult to acquire enough staff to provide the best customer service to students. Tunnicliffe said he hopes to increase staff to keep the second KAF window open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays and to re-open on weekends starting in October.

Tunnicliffe said that some menu changes are important to providing quality customer service while supporting staff, such as removing most of the sandwich offerings. Due to preparation and transportation, the large number of sandwiches KAF previously offered required a lot of logistical attention from the staff, Tunnicliffe said.

He added that pizza is now on the menu and that the baked goods selection has expanded. Tunnicliffe also said that some items that have disappeared will come back into rotation seasonally, such as the New England Salad.

Megan Zhou ’21 said that while she used to go to KAF multiple times a week for lunch, she now makes Collis Café her go-to lunch spot because of KAF’s reduced sandwich offerings.

Many student favorites, however, are still on the menu. Li said the quiche is one of her favorite orders. She added that she also enjoys the new pepperoni pizza.

According to Plodzik, DDS is also taking on more sustainability initiatives. DDS has removed the plastic bags from the Courtyard Café and is committed to figuring out how to successfully implement paper straws, he said.

The Class of 2018 also worked with DDS to donate reusable sporks to all incoming freshmen who went on First-Year Trips, Crosby said.

Plodzik noted that DDS is committed to reducing disposable containers and will keep moving forward with its sustainability initiatives.

Plodzik said that he hopes to continue improving the College’s dining program over the next few years. This term, ’53 Commons will not close between breakfast and lunch like it has in the past. Plodzik said he hopes that next year, ’53 Commons can remain open all day. According to him, the Ivy Standard Plan, a new meal plan with 28 meal swipes implemented this year, is a step toward an unlimited access meal plan in the future.

“My job is really to get people to love dining,” Plodzik said.