As Aladdin prepares to enter its second year as the dining services provider for the university, changes are coming to the campus dining experience through a block meal plan system and a summer remodel of One Main and the Main Dining Room (MDR).
Aladdin took over as the university’s dining services provider in August of 2018 after the university parted ways with Aramark, the company responsible for campus dining from 2015 to the spring of 2018.
By the time the transition to Aladdin was complete in the fall, meal plans were already in place and chosen by students, but the current system will be facing changes as meal plans move from a “traditional” swipe plan to a “block” swipe plan.
According to Parton, the current “traditional” system gives students a set number of meal swipes per week, while the new “block” swipe plan gives students their full amount of swipes at the beginning of each semester.
“The block plans are very popular because it gives value added in the sense that you’re able to use it when you want to and you have more control,” Parton said. “Some students might eat 10 meals one week and five meals the next; you’re not going to lose them week to week.”
With the old plan, students who didn’t use all of their designated meal swipes in a week lost those swipes, and they weren’t able to use more than a set number of swipes per week and per meal period. With the new block plan, students are able to use as many swipes as they want in a given day or meal period and don’t lose out on unused swipes. There’s also less chance of a student running out of meal swipes, as students can access the full amount of meal swipes at any time.
The new block plan also gets rid of designated guest meal swipes and incorporates them into your total swipe count for every option except the unlimited swipes plan, which is required for all first-year students.
“Literally you could bring 239 of your friends in and all eat and all of your meals could be gone in one day,” Parton said.
Parton clarified that the unlimited plan gives students an unlimited number of swipes in the MDR, but swipes for meal exchange at One Main are still limited.
For example, if a student on the unlimited plan went to the MDR for lunch, they couldn’t then go to One Main during the lunch meal period and do a meal exchange. However, according to Parton, a student on the unlimited plan could go to One Main first at lunch and then use a swipe in MDR directly afterward with no problem.
According to the university’s dining website, meal swipes do not carry over at the end of the semester, and all leftover meal swipes are removed from your student account at the end of each semester. The website also noted that CapBucks carry over from fall to spring and do not carry over from spring to fall.
Another change coming to dining services is a remodel of the MDR and a remodel of the kitchen in One Main.
According to Parton, the remodel in the MDR will include the addition of booths and seating with charging ports, new paint, laminate, and countertops, but the locations of food items will stay relatively the same. Parton said they will also be replacing some of the old equipment, but most of the renovations will take place in the dining area.
Parton said the biggest change is that they’ll be moving the allergen-friendly kitchen over to the area where the desserts are currently to prevent cross contamination. The area will have its own action station and will be free of the top eight most common allergens.
“Right now, we have a limited area that’s allergen-friendly,” Parton said. “We do what we can with it, but we’re kind of restricted in what we can and can’t do.”
The allergen-friendly kitchen will feature a daily menu, but students can order specialty items such as chicken or tofu to be made-to-order.
Parton said students have been responding well to the changes Aladdin has brought to campus dining, but said One Main “continues to struggle” at times with fast service.
“The remodel over the summer should, I think, definitely fix it,” Parton said. “It’s going to be a really nice kitchen. The kitchen currently is just too small to handle the volume.”
While there will be some slight changes in the outside area of One Main, most of the renovations will be taking place in the kitchen. The remodel includes tripling the size of the grill, installing a larger pizza oven to accommodate the full-size pizzas they hope to begin selling, and a general upgrade of equipment.
Overall, Parton said the renovations are meant to give students better quality food and create more efficiency in One Main. Parton said there isn’t a solid estimate on how much the renovations will cost, but it’s “in the million-dollar range.”
According to Parton, there aren’t any changes coming to meal periods, and first-year students are still required to keep the unlimited swipes dining plan. Students who live on campus without a kitchen can choose between the unlimited plan, the 240 block, the 200 block, or the 125 block. Students who are commuters or live in housing with a kitchen can choose between any of those plans, but have the additional option of choosing the Freedom 100 or Freedom 50 plans.
For more information about dining services on campus, visit capital.edudine.com. To view pricing of meal plans, visit capital.edu/room-and-board-rates/. If you have ideas for food items or suggestions to make dining services better, reach out to Aladdin via the dining services website or use the comment cards available at the register of the MDR.