The entrance of Rathbone Dining Hall on Sept. 16, 2020. In response to COVID-19, Lehigh Dining has taken many precautions to ensure the safety of Lehigh students using the dining halls. (Annalise Kelloff/B&W Staff)

Lehigh Dining adapts to meet shifting regulations

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Lehigh Dining has implemented many new protocols this semester to ensure the health and safety of Lehigh students and employees. 

In order to meet all safety guidelines, masks are required in all Lehigh dining facilities, and hours of operation have become more limited. The cafe at Williams Hall, Lucy’s Cafe in Linderman and the cafe at Mountaintop campus are all remaining closed this semester. 

At operational dining locations, there has been an increase in to-go containers and the addition of curbside pickup options. Pandini’s has been transformed into entirely to-go options and renamed “Clutch and Go.”

“The things that have changed are I guess obvious, but I still think we have a commitment to quality, good food, and exceptional service, even in crazy times,” said David Joseph, Lehigh’s executive director of Student Auxiliary Services.

However, some of these changes have caused inconveniences for students. 

Katherine Stenersen, ‘24, said she tried to eat dinner on campus at 8 p.m. but had to order food through the online delivery service Grubhub because all Lehigh dining locations were closed. 

Feedback from students has led Lehigh Dining to update its policies.

“We constantly evaluate the dining program, whether it’s a normal year or an abnormal year,” Joseph said. “We’re always looking at something and if we think we can improve it, we will.”

Joseph said on Sept. 10, the decision was made to keep Hawk’s Nest, Lehigh’s late-night dining option, open until 10 p.m. in response to student requests for extended hours.

General Manager of Lehigh Dining Bruce Christine saidt, although Hawk’s Nest will be open later, it won’t be operating as it did in previous semesters. Students can expect strict social distancing regulations and should not anticipate the social atmosphere that has existed previously.

“We wanted (students) to realize that dining was a necessity, but the socializing aspect had to be minimal,” Christine said.

However, some first-year students feel dining is their only chance to be social. 

“It’s funny because nothing is going on on campus,” Stenersen said. “Meals are kind of the only place that you can congregate.”

The strict protocols have made eating a source of anxiety for some students, including Stenerson. She said figuring out who to eat with and trying to guess how full the dining halls are can be especially stressful.

Joseph said the dining staff has noticed a trend of students tending to ignore social distancing guidelines. 

“The social distancing seems to go away a little bit at dinner, and it’s really something we need to be addressing,” Joseph said. 

Joseph warned of consequences if the rule-breaking continues. 

“If they don’t do what they’re supposed to — adhere to the protocols and guidelines — we could very easily change it to all take-out,” he said. 

Other adjustments to dining have also been made throughout  the semester. Joseph said Lehigh Dining had originally opened the ASA Packer Dining room to students for lunch, but the staff found it wasn’t being utilized by students, and it has since been closed. 

In addition to protocol changes, Joseph said this semester’s training of the Lehigh Dining staff went above and beyond normal training. 

Evan Rehrig, the marketing manager of Lehigh Dining, said Sodexo was instrumental in designing the dining plan for this semester. 

The department was able to prevent staff cuts by reallocating labor. 

“With closing other operations, alluding to Iacocca or Global, we were able to talk to those folks and put them in other operations on campus,” Rehrig said. 

Rehrig also said the extension of some hours, such as the opening of Lower Cort on the weekends, has prevented the need for staff cuts.

Christine said this semester’s staff had to sign a commitment that can lead to termination if they don’t follow COVID prevention guidelines.

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