Dining Forum appeases students’ appetites

A forum for students to meet with Western Carolina University’s dining staff for a discussion regarding the food services currently offered on campus was held on Feb. 23 in the A.K. Hinds University Center’s Multipurpose Room.

The forum gave students a chance to voice their opinions and concerns about the food services.

“I want to develop a relationship with the students so that they feel comfortable confronting us,” said John Crowe, senior food service director at WCU. “We want to hear what students have to say about what they like, and we’re very concerned about what they dislike.”

Several students noted that Zoca was their least favorite, and they believe it would be best to replace it. 

“We are currently exploring alternate options for Zoca,” Crowe said.

When junior Caleb Gray mentioned that the salads that are offered in the University Center are delicious but too expensive, Crowe responded with a proposal that he felt was even better.

“Just last week myself and a few staff members went to view an entirely new salad concept. We’re looking for a new addition, and feel that a ‘Chop Salad’ might even replace the salads all together,” Crowe said. “It will be similar to the restaurant called Chops. We are currently looking for a potential partner to franchise with over this.”

In addition to the replacement for Zoca, the dining service staff aims to install a milkshake machine called “F’Real” by the end of this school year. The machine will be located downstairs in the University Center.

Students were also able to ask questions at the forum.

“Why doesn’t Aramark create a deal with Mad Batter and Subway so that we can use our CatCards there too?” asked Andy Miller, a senior at WCU.

According to Crowe, state law prohibits Aramark from allowing students to use their meal plan at a private business, unless that business is affiliated with campus dining services. The legislator and attorney general make the decision of who dining services can partner with and because WCU is holding the money purchased for meal plans, it is against regulatory statutes to use a CatCard at other businesses. 

When students began discussing the inconvenience of going off campus for a late-night meal, Resident District Manager Todd Littrell stated that the dining staff has begun discussing fall hours of operation for the dining hall upstairs.

“The hours will be Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 p.m. – 2 a.m.,” Littrell said.

A proposal has been made to keep Einstein Bros Bagels open until 6 p.m. for the fall, and after Gray asked if Einstein Bros. could stay open for lunch on Saturdays next year, the response was that it would be taken into consideration.

Hunter Ford, a junior at WCU, commented on how he disliked the taste of the sauce that is sometimes on the burgers upstairs in the dining hall.

“One of the cool things about upstairs is that the food is being prepared in front of everybody, and those employees take great pride in working for the University,” replied Crowe. “They want to keep you happy, so call them out by name and let them know what you are looking for, and they will do their best to serve your specific needs.”

Aside from suggestions and complaints, there were also many compliments that the dining staff received.

“I really appreciate the ladies at the cash registers in the dining hall. They really make that extra effort to make your day,” Gray said.

A second upcoming opportunity to speak with the dining service staff will be held during the next advisory council meeting.

“We are so open to exploring options for new products. Make friends with the folks from dining services, ask for the manager on duty, and express your concerns on a comment card. We do actually read the cards and respond to them,” Crowe said.