Students’ hunger for change in Fairfield’s dining services seems to have been fed by Sodexo’s updated dining options implemented at the start of this semester.
The new dining options include the addition of a Starbucks in the DiMenna-Nyselius Library and a cafe in the Charles F. Dolan School of Business. The Barone Main Dining Room, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Starbucks and the Stag Snack Bar all have expanded hours as well.
Assistant Vice President of Administration and Student Affairs James Fitzpatrick ’70 believes that the expansion of dining hours in Barone has been one of the biggest successes.
“The late night numbers are very, very strong. People seem to be lounging around … relaxing and talking with no pressure in terms of time,” he said.
Longtime Sodexo employee Jose Morales agreed with the statement, saying, “It’s definitely busy … [Students] still come in until 9:30.”
Fitzpatrick also mentioned that focusing on Friday and Saturday night meals in Barone has been “extremely well received.”
“I came up on Friday night and I said ‘I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a Friday night dinner where there were so many options,’” said Fitzpatrick.
On the other hand, Fitzpatrick said that business at Starbucks has started off slow, and Einstein’s has seen lower sales on Saturdays. But Fitzpatrick credits the low turnout to the fact that students are still easing into the semester.
Einstein’s employee Stephanie Cenatiempo said she noticed more students buying from Einstein’s later on Saturday morning “at around 9 or 10 a.m.”
Fairfield’s new dining changes also include the option to use meal plan swipes at the Stag. Although there are limits to what students can purchase and at what time they can purchase them, this update has been incredibly popular.
When asked about its success, Fitzpatrick laughed, saying, “I think it’s probably too successful, in that people are saying, ‘Why can we only do it from 1 to 4?’”
“If we just opened it up, then no one would be eating in the dining hall … The dollars that you budgeted for a board meal plan would be wiped out because everyone wants to use them in the Snack Bar,” Fitzpatrick added.
Stag Snack Bar Retail Supervisor Rafael dePara agreed.
“Yeah, it’s crazy over here. It surprised me. Now we know that from 1 p.m. on it’s going to be crazy,” said dePara.
Fitzpatrick said he credits the popularity of the Stag to “habit,” but mentioned that Barone offers much healthier options.
“From a health standpoint, we’re able to give you more, and value for your dollar, by having a board residential plan,” said Fitzpatrick.
“There are way more healthy options available for you as a student upstairs than there are downstairs. It’s not even close. I think there’s an obligation on our part to provide healthy dining,” he said. “Now if you don’t want to take advantage of that healthy dining option, than that’s up to you.”
As part of the healthier dining options, Barone has expanded the MyZone area for students with dietary concerns. While it has seen significant improvements, Fitzpatrick said that strengthening MyZone will always be an ongoing project.
Regarding the future of Fairfield dining, Fitzpatrick hopes to focus on building new meal plan options and “looking at potential construction additions and renovations.”
“Our challenge … is to come up with new meal plans that really are a hybrid and a combination of a healthy board residential option and a fast food option,” he said.
Fitzpatrick stated that the actual implementation of new meal plans wouldn’t be the difficult part.
“Doing it within terms of the financial realities and good common sense financially is what makes it tough … If someone is giving me x amount of dollars, have I maximized those dollars in such a way so there’s absolutely no waste?”
Student reaction to the updates has thus far been positive.
Senior Jillian Ottombrino commented on one dining update in particular.
“I wish I had a meal plan because I wish I could swipe into the Stag,” Ottombrino said. “Where was this when we were freshmen?”
On-campus sophomores, who have witnessed the meal plan update and are required to have meal plans, also mentioned how they enjoy the new updates.
“It’s really convenient to have Einstein’s open on Saturdays because that’s when I need coffee the most,” said Morgan Sharp ‘17.