Aspects of Dining Services changed permanently in the post-pandemic world

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Bon Appétit returns students to indoor seating in dining halls as they compensate for staff shortages. (Photo by Caroline Burns ’22)

Tanushree Sow Mondal

As the college transitions to an in-person semester, dining halls return to normal capacity with a few challenges and changes along the way.

Most dining locations on campus have been restored to pre-pandemic aesthetics and operations. According to Bon Appétit General Manager Christopher Brown, all venues will be open this fall with the option of indoor seating. Self-serve buffets and salad bars also made a comeback this semester, and the reopening of Skillman Café introduced more dining options for students.

While many of the operational changes made due to the pandemic have since been undone, dining services kept a few adaptations. For instance, Upper and Marquis dining halls have continued offering eco-friendly clamshell takeout containers for to-go dining. The mobile ordering app also remains an option for students.

“Mobile ordering is available for ECO Café (smoothies only), Skillman Café (drinks only), Lower Farinon, Gilbert’s and The Trolley Stop. Simon’s is available for mobile ordering only,” Brown wrote in an email.

According to Brown, Bon Appétit continues to prioritize safety through the implementation of rigorous sanitation and precautionary measures.

“Dining Services has worked closely with our counterparts on campus, including the Business Services department, the COVID-19 Operational Implementation Group and the Bailey Health Center to ensure the vaccination status of dining employees,” Brown wrote.

Despite these successes, Dining Services has encountered many challenges, including the difficulty of feeding a large student population attributable to this year’s unusually high freshman enrollment, all during a nationwide labor shortage.

“The extraordinary complications resulting from COVID-19 make hiring staff extremely difficult, with labor shortages being experienced by most industries nationwide,” Brown wrote. “Both our on-site and corporate purchasing teams are constantly striving to remediate any supply chain issues, and we have leveraged all available resources to fill our open positions on campus. Lafayette, our peer institutions and many local restaurants are all facing this challenge.”

In response to the open staff positions, Bon Appétit has shortened some dining hours as they continue to recruit new employees.

“As the semester progresses and additional hiring occurs, we will make changes to our hours of operation,” Brown wrote.

Despite these challenges, Brown still described the return of in-person dining as fulfilling overall.

“After an extremely challenging year, it is absolutely fantastic to see the smiling faces enjoying a meal and conversation in our dining venues. We missed seeing the interactions of our staff and the community. Our kitchen principles haven’t changed — we’re still cooking from scratch options daily, with many ingredients sourced from local farmers.” Brown wrote. “I am thrilled to see the creative menus, live-action stations, catering across campus, concessions at sporting events and all that dining has to offer.”