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New cafeteria layout maximizes space, aggravates students

The upperclassmen on campus this year have undoubtedly noticed the stark changes to the entire cafeteria complex, ranging from a relocation of the Caf Store to installation of three turnstiles, among other developments. And yes, the sound of complaints can be heard all over the Wilf campus. Nonetheless, it appears that Dining Services had its own reasons for implementing this rearrangement, many of them attempts to improve things for everyone. Unintended consequences notwithstanding, these adjustments are being touted by Dining Services products of a constant effort to upgrade the dining plan as a whole and the cafeteria experience in particular.

Bruce Jacobs, Director of Dining Services, was extremely open about the changes, explaining both the motivations behind them and addressing the problems they have caused. In essence, the thrust of the whole project was to “maximize space in order to offer students a better product.” Wasted space like the back of the old food court has been eliminated, and the new breakfast café now has the room to feature an array of cereals as well as a Starbucks coffee machine. “We are now utilizing our space properly,” says Jacobs. “Students are getting 25%-30% more for the same space and basically the same number of staff.” The Sky Café now features augmented personnel as well as a much-improved salad bar, fresh pizza, and a self-serve panini station. Additional Starbucks machines have been added to both Nagel Bagel and the cafeteria itself. According to Jacobs, the several turnstiles are meant to keep the traffic flowing, as well as to cut down on the sadly prevalent issue of theft. Other features now available in the “outside line” include deli sandwiches, Slurpee machines, and a separate international cuisine section. In Jacobs’ own words, “Every year, we take a look at what’s working and what’s not, and we adjust accordingly to enhance the experience for the students.”

However, Jacobs recognizes the ill effects of some of the modifications. The prevailing issue is of course the wait times, which during peak hours have hit record highs. Although he attributes this phenomenon to the onset of a new year, many students believe that the mere lack of checkout lines will permanently delay the whole process. With all students forced to merge into one or two lines, bottlenecking has significantly delayed the simple task of obtaining one’s meal. As Elia Rackovsky (YC ’13) puts it, “There may have been shoplifting problems in the past, but to convert it all into one line seems excessive. Lines at lunch are three times as long, and it’s hard to get to shiur on time. 11:45 is the new 12:00.” Like many institutions, YU may be suffering from implementation of decisions whose outcomes are not properly evaluated in advance. “I applaud Dining Services for their attempt to improve,” says Gavi Unger (YC ’12), “yet the lack of planning and efficiency makes those efforts useless.” When asked about this complaint, Jacobs admits that there will always be a “give and take” when it comes to changes as significant as this one. He is confident that as people become accustomed to the system and its configuration, wait times will drop. Nonetheless, at the present moment, this is not much of a consolation to the scores of students in Furman Hall grumbling about how long the lines are.

Coupled with the impending onset of the program that allows for use of the Caf Card at local eateries, this year has featured the most substantial overhaul of YU dining in quite some time. The motives are clear and respectable, and despite some glaringly detrimental outcomes, these changes must be allowed to play themselves out a bit longer before a definitive assessment can be reached.