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Ask The Observer: What happened to Quarter Dogs?

March 2020 marked the beginning of a two-month hiatus away from campus for Notre Dame students. It also marked the beginning of an indefinite, and potentially permanent, hiatus of a campus culinary staple: Quarter Dogs. 

Quarter Dogs were hot dogs sold for 25 cents after midnight in Huddle Mart housed in LaFortune Student Center. Students would file into the Huddle, load up a paper tray with as many buns as they wanted, grab the franks from a heated tray, apply their desired toppings, pay for the subsidized late-night meal with flex points and then loiter in the 69-year old student center while enjoying their meals.

“There was a culture about it,” Pasquerilla West resident assistant (RA) Jade Fung said.

Campus Dining director Luigi Alberganti said in an email it is unlikely that Quarter Dogs will return at a similar pricing model due to today’s “inflationary environment and increased labor costs.”

Stanford Hall assistant rector John Hale would make the short trek to LaFortune Student Center about three times a week as an undergraduate. Though the low price helped draw customers, Hale said the value lay outside the affordability.

“They were a huge part of my Notre Dame experience,” he said.

After a late night of studying, hanging out in LaFortune and eating quarter dogs was a great way to initiate “cross-campus dialogue,” Hale said. The student center is located near the center of campus and draws students from all parts of campus, he added.

“My kind of philosophical take on [quarter dogs] is that human beings need companionship, we need tradition,” Hale said. “I think that if you eliminate wholesome traditions, I think they will be replaced with less wholesome things. So I think quarter dogs are a super innocent, fun, good way to promote culture within the dorms.”

In Alumni Hall, resident Dawgs often avoid eating hot dogs.

“You don’t eat dogs in Alumni. You eat sausage. You eat brats,” rector Jay Verzosa said.

There was one dorm-sponsored exception to this rule: a Sunday night tradition called Grotto Dawgs. Each Sunday night after Mass, Alumni residents traveled to the Grotto to pray as a community and then hike over to LaFortune to feast on Quarter Dogs.

The tradition began in Sept. 2014 and lasted until the suspension of Quarter Dogs in 2020. 

Quarter Dogs never appealed to Nathaniel Burke, a senior RA in Alumni.

“I always say to people, whatever money they’re saving [by eating quarter dogs], they’re going to have to pay back in paying for colon cancer treatment or something like that,” Burke joked.

Though the processed meat involved doesn’t appeal to Burke, he said Alumni residents loved the tradition. 

“There’s a lot of attraction to it just because it’s kind of a hilarious idea,” he said. “I know there are dudes that enjoyed the concept and did eat them.”

Alberganti estimated about a thousand quarter dogs were sold each week. The dogs were subsidized in an attempt to keep students on campus.

During her freshman year, Fung initially found Quarter Dogs gross.

“In the beginning, I was like, ‘that sounds nasty,’” she said.

One day in the second semester, she tried a Quarter Dog at the urging of her friends and was surprised to find she enjoyed the experience.

Fung said the elimination of Quarter Dogs reflects a change in the campus culture following the pandemic.

“I think there’s a lot of things that happened before COVID that are just gone on campus and the culture of campus has just changed,” she said. “I feel like being on campus was definitely way more fun and engaging and random [before COVID].”

It’s unclear whether Quarter Dogs will ever return in any capacity, but if they do, Hale said it is crucial that they are called Quarter Dogs, regardless of the price. He said he would pay up to $2 a piece for a “Quarter Dog.”

“Even with inflation and everything, if they became 50 cent dogs I don’t care,” he said. “I just know, no matter what they cost, they should always be called Quarter Dogs.”

Contact Ryan Peters at rpeters5@nd.edu.

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Ask The Observer: Are grab-n-go point values fair?

Notre Dame’s grab-and-go lives up to its name for convenience, but some students are questioning how the point-based prices are determined.

Open between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., the grab-n-go locations in North and South dining halls offer quick meal options for students on the run, including snacks, drinks and pre-packaged sandwiches. Each swipe is worth 7 points, and items in the grab-and-go are labeled based on how many points they cost.

Some students walk away with a sandwich, a side and a drink. Others leave with a Body Armor sports drink and a mandarin orange cup.

Osman Heredia, a freshman living in Keenan, said he likes to stop at the grab-n-go for extra snacks and to use up meal swipes. He said not all item point values are created equal.

“It’s a little unbalanced when this coffee is the majority of my points,” Heredia said, pointing to his plastic bottle of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. 

Cole Noss, a junior, appreciates the grab-n-go service even though he said the items are not exactly a good value.

“It’s pretty sick. Essentially, I don’t use all my points, so I might as well get the free food,” he said.

But when it comes to point-value fairness, Noss isn’t sold.

“When you actually do the math for like three peanut butter and jellies… it gets you to like six or seven points, so mathematically, no [it’s not a fair system],” he said.

Reggie Kalili, director of student dining, said there is no dollar value assigned to each swipe because meal plans are included in the holistic, $16,710 total for room and board.

“It’s part of room and board, so we don’t have that [swipe value]. It’s part of one fund,” he said.

Still, guests who visit either dining hall will pay $17.85 for a lunch meal.

Students access that same dining hall meal — or a visit to the grab-n-go — for the cost of one swipe.

Compared to the $17.85 estimated swipe value, the value of the items in the grab-n-go falls short of what guests pay for a swipe.

If dollar values are assigned to grab-n-go items based on a guest lunch meal swipe, price premiums emerge for nearly every item.

An RX Bar that costs $1.84 per unit at Target costs 4 points — comparable to $10.20 — in the grab-n-go. Other items from Pop-Tarts to Pringles have point values that quadruple the retail price available to consumers shopping at Walmart, Kroger or Target. Pudding cups, which cost $0.27 per unit or one grab-n-go point, include a 1772% markup.

The Observer analyzed the retail prices of grab-n-go items and compared them to the value of a guest lunch meal at North or South dining hall. Maggie Eastland | The Observer

Kalili said the point values are determined by the cost of the items and by a review of how many items a student with a meal plan can take home with a single swipe.

“Those are determined by the cost of the items,” he said. “It’s really the cost of the item, and the cost of the item equates to so many points.”

Before 2020, when meal plans gave students a given number of swipes per week, students could use more than one swipe at once at the grab-n-go. Now, students have a block meal plan and can only swipe into the grab-n-go every 45 minutes.

Prior to the change, students flocked to the grab-n-go each Friday to use up remaining swipes and fill their makeshift dorm pantries.

“The 45-minute pause was put in place, and that was really to prevent that,” Kalili said. “That really wasn’t what the meal plan was for. It wasn’t just so people could use up all their swipes and stock up on orange juices as mixers for a party that weekend.”

Campus Dining tries to limit this kind of stock-up behavior, Kalili explained.

“The way that the grab-n-go was originally designed was to be an alternative, not a replacement for the meal within the dining hall,” he said.

When it comes to what items make an appearance in the grab-n-go, Kalili says that they are chosen by popularity, request and vendor agreements.

“If you look in grab-n-go, there’s a lot of choices, and those come from, primarily from students, and what they take and don’t take, but then we also deal with our vendors,” he said.

Kalili said this year’s guacamole cups reflect a collaborative effort with a new vendor. The Quest and Pure Protein bars were recently added by student request, he added.

“If somebody has an idea or a suggestion, we would definitely look at bringing that in,” Kalili said.

Contact Maggie Eastland at meastlan@nd.edu