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Student dining returns to normal communal style, resumes pre-pandemic offerings

| Monday, August 30, 2021

Within the Notre Dame community, a high vaccination rate has allowed everything from dorm life to football games to seemingly go back to normal. One change that is especially noticeable is the dining halls. North and South Dining Halls now offer in-person communal dining with self-serve buffets and increased meal options.

Senior Director of Campus Dining Luigi Alberganti said he is excited about being able to offer students a more normal dining experience this school year.

“Being back to normal allows people to select their choice of meal from quantities to dressings to the way you make your salad, which I think is exciting,” Alberganti said.

Alberganti said hours for the dining halls and Grab and Go stations will stay steady throughout the year, but that they are looking into increased offerings for Grab and Go. He said they are currently planning on providing more fresh options, such as sandwiches and the Farmer’s Fridge salads already being offered at the Huddle.

The dining halls will continue to be open for sit-down meals, Alberganti said, in order to boost community after a year of isolation.

Alberganti also explained that the dining halls need to operate in this style of dining because it generates less waste.

“We created a lot of waste with the to-go containers,” he said. “This is something we want to make sure that we make up by reusing as much as possible right now.”

Alberganti said that student feedback to the changes this year has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The feedback that I’ve received about the dining halls warms my heart,” he said. “[Bringing back normalcy] is something I really, really wanted to do, and we’re going to fight as hard as we can just to protect that.”

Among that feedback is sophomore Bridget Fuller, who said she is happy about the increased options.

“[These options] are a lot better, especially because I’m pescatarian, so it’s a lot easier to find stuff,” Fuller said. “It’s just less of a hassle.”

Along with the dining halls, there are new changes in the retail offerings on campus, including the Noodle Nook in LaFortune Student Center and a new Chick-fil-A location in Duncan Student Center beginning in the spring 2022 semester.

Sandra Garcia, Campus Dining’s new director of retail, said she shares students’ excitement for both new locations, but especially the Chick-fil-A because of the increased revenue it will create.

“[Chick-fil-A] will help us fund more scholarships and return more to the University, as all of our profits are unrestricted dollars to the university,” Garcia explained.

Alberganti echoed Garcia’s sentiments, explaining that deciding to bring Chick-fil-A to campus was not an easy decision.

“The talks with Chick-fil-A have been pretty long conversations,” Alberganti said. “It was a decision that wasn’t taken lightly for sure. There was a lot of conversations in there, but the University only made it official the day that the contract was signed.”

As Campus Dining experiences employee shortages in the midst of hiring more staff, many retail chains on campus are operating under decreased hours.

“We have made a lot of changes to hours of operation [for retail locations], in terms of limiting those, but we are actively and creatively recruiting, and as we bring additional staff members on, we will extend hours,” Garcia said.

Garcia said that Campus Dining is now offering a higher starting wage, especially for skilled employees, and more job perks to new employees, also emphasizing a great workplace culture. She mentioned that Campus Dining is focusing on community partnerships to foster new employees as well.

Garcia said she also played a part in recruiting food truck options outside of the student centers to increase student dining options even further and supplement shortened retail hours.

“I have been involved very heavily with the food trucks,” Garcia said. “Most of the feedback we’ve gotten is positive — people like the food and they like having additional options. Obviously, the food trucks themselves are excited to be on campus and be able to serve our community. And so, it seems like a win-win.”

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