Campus dining director discusses new dining locations
Claire Rafford | Monday, January 21, 2019
Shortly before winter break, Campus Dining announced the addition of two new dining locations on campus.
Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, a Greek restaurant, will take the place of Au Bon Pain Catering in the Hesburgh Center. Director of Campus Dining Chris Abayasinghe said that the new eatery will offer fresh, healthy Mediterranean food in a social yet scholarly setting.
“We wanted to respond to the new Jenkins-Nanovic Building, which is constructed right next to where this facility is going to be, and we also want to acknowledge the growing globalization of our campus and begin the process of introducing authentic, delicious cuisines,” he said.
Abayasinghe said Garbanzo is expected to open in March 2019.
The second new retail location, Pizza Pi, will be located in the place of Reckers on the south side of South Dining Hall. According to a previous Observer report, the restaurant will serve mostly Italian foods, such as pizza, pasta and breadsticks, in addition to salads and smoothies. Pizza Pi’s hours are planned to be 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
“Especially with the new residential hall being built on over on this side of campus, we also wanted to acknowledge late-night dining venues,” Abayasinghe said. “So we thought, what better way than for us to renovate Reckers?”
Pizza Pi will also be serving beer and wine options to students who are of legal drinking age. Abayasinghe said several factors influenced the decision to serve alcohol in a campus restaurant.
“The first piece was to acknowledge the ability for us to serve responsibly on campus,” he said. “The second part was for us to also acknowledge that as you have these cuisines come together, whether it’s pizza or whether it’s pasta or delicious salads or things along those lines, that we could introduce into the culinary scene here more than just soda and beverages like that, so we wanted to acknowledge that. And thirdly, thinking of the late-night activation and so on, we wanted to be able to create that environment where students could dine and also be able to drink responsibly.”
Due to Indiana state laws, the dining area will be separate from the bar area, which only students who are over the age of 21 will be able to enter. Pizza Pi will also require identification to verify the age of students who wish to order alcohol, Abayasinghe said.
“In the state of Indiana, we are required to follow certain codes in regards to the service of alcohol,” he said. “Because this facility will also be able to serve food and items like that to folks who are under 21, we have to physically separate the area where students will be 21.”
Pizza Pi is set to open the first week of May 2019.
In light of these renovations, Abayasinghe explained the process behind choosing which dining locations to remodel each year.
“We also do periodically re-evaluate the restaurants that we have on campus and make decisions on which ones need to be remodeled and which ones don’t,” he said. “So it’s not like every year we remodel just one or two. It’s a planned process.”
There are no concrete plans to remodel any other campus dining locations, though Abayasinghe said there are plans to evaluate locations to make sure they are running smoothly and determine if they need updating.
“There are plans for us to evaluate facilities, and if they need to be remodeled because of the years of service it’s been open or whether we are shifting a concept, then yes, we would remodel them,” he said.
Abayasinghe also stated that despite the success and prominence of the new Duncan Student Center, there are no concrete plans to remodel LaFortune Student Center, despite its many years of service. He also said Campus Dining renovated the back kitchens in LaFortune over the winter holidays.
In addition to continued work on the retail eateries on campus, Abayasinghe said Campus Dining is working on reviewing the student meal plans and looking to improve the system.
“One of the main items that we are continuing to work with student government on, as well as Student Affairs, is the ongoing conversation about meal plan review,” he said. “ … So I see that as our big conversation for the rest of the semester into next year.”
Abayasinghe said the meal plan inspection is occurring because it has been a long time since campus meal plans have been evaluated.
“Every so many years — it’s actually common practice and actually a best practice for us to review how our students are dining,” Abayasinghe said. “Knowing full well that the last review of meal plans happened 20-plus years ago, we know that it’s time for us to consider these conversations, and this has been ongoing for two years.”
With all the new projects Campus Dining is unveiling, Abayasinghe said their decisions on renovations and projects to focus on are a response to the preferences of Notre Dame students.
“It’s truly a partnership piece between ourselves and our students — and, by extension, Student Affairs — where we constantly evaluate and are open to conversation about, what do we do great? Where’s our opportunities, and then finally, what can we do to provide the best outcomes?” he said. “Every year we’ve been making those changes with new student leadership and I really think, with all the exciting things that have happened and continue to happen, is us being responsive to the needs of students these days.”