Lehigh Dining Services adjusts for the growing student population with updated facilities, new dining locations and upgraded food selections.
“We always look at our facilities and see each year what can we improve, what can we change, what needs a little touch up,” said David Joseph, the executive director of Student Auxiliary Services.
One of the updates is the new Rathbone furniture, which adds a new look and feel to the dining hall, in addition to more seating. Joseph said he has received tremendous feedback from students regarding the new furniture.
Dining Services then recycled Rathbone’s old furniture by transferring it to Cort at Lower UC. It then sold Cort at Lower UC’s furniture to Moravian College.
Despite the fact that this year’s first-year and sophomore classes are over-enrolled, Dining Services said it has not affected the dining hall service. It believes this is due to many of the sophomores moving to a Greek meal plan, as well as more commuter students.
“Compared to last year, the numbers are pretty much even,” said Amy Pulcini, the marketing coordinator for Dining Services.
According to statistics provided by Pulcini, 1,332 students swiped in at Cort at Lower UC for meals, which included breakfast, lunch and dinner, on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. One year later on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, a total of 1,425 students swiped in at Lower Cort UC. This reveals a variant of 93 students.
Joseph recognizes the need for more seats at Rathbone from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., which is the dining hall’s busiest time. He said Dining Services has started exploring the option of expanding Rathbone, which he said would not be easy considering its location on a hill. However, the University Center is scheduled for a renovation that would be completed by either 2019 or 2020.
“Once the UC renovation is complete with an enlarged food court, I don’t think there will be a program on the East Coast that will be better than what we offer,” Joseph said.
In addition to these changes, Dining Services is exploring even more options to enhance the dining experience. It is currently looking into adding another food truck that would serve a more specialized type of food, such as Southwest or Asian cuisine. Dining Services has already asked focus groups for their input and will continue to explore the option.
Additionally, Dining Services will change the exterior of the Fud Truck to celebrate Lehigh’s 150 years. FUSION, the on-campus student design firm, is responsible for the design.
Dining Services is also looking into adding a “fourth” meal of the day, which would be in addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner. The “fourth” meal would be offered from approximately 8:30 to 10:00 p.m. for students who are looking for a later meal. It is evaluating the costs and speaking with Student Senate members for their input.
It is also reaching out to different groups within the Lehigh community to assess student opinions, comments and concerns. It has created an athlete focus group and a first-year focus group. Additionally, Dining Services hopes to conduct 10-12 question surveys that could be administered by tablets to students waiting in line at the dining halls.
Dining Services is working with the registrar to look into possibly changing class schedules, which could alleviate some of the crowdedness in the dining halls. In the past, Dining Services has also worked with engineering students to figure out how to create a more effective line flow and increase speed of service.
Not only does Dining Services take an internal look at their offerings, but it also turns to outside sources for improvement. It works with Sodexo to examine best practices, as well as at other schools for new programs that could be implemented at Lehigh.