It’s been a little over two months since Aladdin took over as Capital’s food service provider, and by most accounts the transition has been a smooth one. However, there’s one on-campus dining area that’s been having some ongoing issues over the course of the semester.
If you’ve ever had a meal plan or eaten on Capital’s campus, odds are you’ve been to One Main. Unlike the all-you-care-to-eat style buffet in Capital Court (also known as MDR), food at One Main is made-to-order from a limited menu of options.
Students seem to agree that Aladdin is definitely an upgrade in terms of food quality here at Capital.
“I think the quality of the food is better with Aladdin,” said Liz Drollinger, a senior music major. “It tastes better than it has in years past.”
Melannie Kingston, a first-year pre-med chemistry major agreed, but had some concerns of her own about One Main in particular.
“The quality of the food is good,” Kingston said. “You’ve just got to wait a super long time to get the food.”
Daniel Parton, Capital’s Director of Dining Services, said that the largest contributing factor to the longer wait times in One Main is an ongoing staffing issue.
“[It’s] a daily fight … a lot of times people think we’re not scheduling enough people … I think one of our biggest challenges outside of technology has been staffing,” Parton said.
On the technological side of things, if there’s one thing returning students seem to miss about Aramark, it’s the old buzzer system. In years past, when you ordered food at One Main you would also receive a buzzer that went off when your food was ready. This semester, when your food is ready to be served, your name is called out across the restaurant to let you know to come pick it up.
“I do kinda miss the buzzers, I’m not gonna lie,” Drollinger said. “When you’re trying to have a conversation with somebody … trying to like, be quiet and listen for your name, sometimes that doesn’t happen.”
Kingston echoed this sentiment with her own experiences.
“It gets a little hectic when it gets to when they have to call out the names, especially when it’s busy, because a lot of times you can’t really hear them or you can’t understand,” Kingston said.
“I definitely understand the frustration on the student side,” Parton said about the buzzers. “Because I have a lot of it myself.”
According to Parton, the key problem with reintroducing the buzzer system into One Main is a missing piece of crucial hardware. Even though the buzzers from previous years are still at Capital, without a specific piece of hardware, they cannot be used. With this being the case, Parton had been looking to procure a new buzzer system, but for the moment it is unclear if or when this new system will be put to use.
Other technical issues include issues in the order printing system, and how it interacts with both the main register and the self-serve kiosks which have yet to be put into service. Parton assured that these issues are also being addressed, but that these problems take time to solve.
“We did a really quick takeover. Normally we’ve got several months to work with the purveyor to get the system set up, and then a couple months to test … a lot of it goes back to being rushed to get in there,” Parton said. “It’s just not how we envisioned [this] whole process working.”
Concerns over meal swipes and meal periods have also arisen over the semester.
“The hours of MDR kind of get in the way of my schedule, because I don’t get out of class until 2 o’clock,” Kingston said. “But once it hits 2 o’clock over at MDR they do like, ‘light fare’ which practically means that there’s no food except salad and the dessert table.”
Parton acknowledged that the meal period hours are sometimes difficult for students to work with, but said that they were not set by Aladdin.
“The meal exchange hours,” Parton said. “That’s what was given to us whenever we did, when we put the contract together … we were just trying to honor the existing [system], what we believed to be existing with the information we were given.”
Meal periods do not only affect the food that is available to students, but also limit the number of meal swipes a person can use. According to Parton, meal swipe limits based on meal period do not affect students with the Ultimate Plus meal plan that comes with unlimited meal swipes, but students on other plans are limited to “one meal per meal period.”
In other words, this means that students who use a meal swipe for the dinner period at Capital Court cannot use another swipe at One Main later that night because those two meals fall into the same meal period.
All of this being said, improvements have been and will continue to be made in One Main as the semester continues onward.
“[The service has] gotten better over the course of the semester,” Drollinger said. “Things have now gotten into a rhythm and a flow, and it has been better.”
In the future, along with fixing some of the technical difficulties in One Main, Parton hopes to be able to include some of the ready-made, grab-and-go items for meal exchange. This cannot be done for all items, like sushi, due to the cost involved, but it is a start in providing extra variety for student dining.
More information on dining services at Capital can be found on Aladdin’s Capital website at capital.edudine.com.