Northwest Dining Unit will be closed on Fridays and Saturdays starting next semester, Director of Dining Services Dennis Pierce said.
“This past year, we revisited the concept and concluded there would be savings realized if we did not offer service at Northwest on Friday and Saturdays, having students take their meals at North (instead),” Pierce said in an email. “The proximity of each unit from each other is not significant nor an inconvenience.”
Dining Services has been reviewing its operations and considering opportunities for cost savings over the past few years, Pierce said.
“As a business, we have been charged by the university to be good stewards of our operations,” Pierce said.
At the end of last year, Dining Services announced it would be closing Buckley Dining Unit on Saturdays and Sundays. Dining Services also decided to close Lu’s Café, which was in the basement of the Family Studies Building, and ended late-night service at Putnam.
“We knew we could never do as much as we did last year but then we started looking at this (Northwest) operation and said, ‘There are some options here,’” Pierce said.
Northwest will remain open Sunday through Thursday so the late-night dining service offered there will not be impacted.
Pierce said 60 people, on average, go to the Grab & Go at Northwest on Friday and Saturday nights.
“In our eyes, that’s not a significant amount when you start looking at how much student labor you need to run a Grab & Go,” Pierce said.
Pierce said, in retrospect, it would have been more prudent to have torn down both North and Northwest and made one large dining hall when Northwest was converted from a residential hall in the fall of 2000.
One of the problems with Northwest is that, even though it has ample seating, it has a small kitchen and lacks storage space, Pierce said.
“There’s not a lot of product that can come in to sustain those numbers,” Pierce said.
North, on the other hand, has a larger kitchen and more storage space, including space in the basement.
“That made it easy for us to decide North over Northwest,” Pierce said.
Over the summer, Dining Services is going to work with the Fire Marshall to determine how many seats they can add.
“We know we can put in more, but we don’t know how many more that is,” Pierce said.
Most of the full-time employees who are scheduled to work on Friday and Saturday will report to North instead. This will require the two dining halls to have fewer student workers on these days.
On Fridays, North is estimated to feed 1,500 students for lunch and 1,000 for dinner. On Saturdays, North will feed an estimated 1,700 for brunch and 1,100 for dinner. Pierce said he did not have data on how many more students North will see next semester.
Pierce said he estimates this move will save approximately $200,000 next year, likely more.
Pierce said students likely won’t “feel” the change until the third week of the fall semester, but the lines likely won’t remain long for the entire semester.
“For the first several weeks, whichever dining unit you go into…any dining unit has long lines for the first six weeks of the semester and then everything patters out,” Pierce said.
Pierce said students in Northwest should take note that North has two entrances which can help balance lines out.
“We got to change that culture that automatically people out of Northwest don’t go in that side, all of them,” Pierce said. “They need to realize there are two sides to enter from and that will average it out.”