Campus Dining has introduced some major changes this quarter by extending hours for various venues, as well as additional food choices and new meal plan programs.
These changes were implemented to increase the variety of options around campus and respond to customer demand, according to Cal Poly Corporation Marketing and Public Relations director Yukie Nishinaga.
Nishinaga said Campus Dining is “really trying to cater to the entire campus community.”
“At one point in the day we’re feeding 20,000 people,” Nishinaga said. “So that’s a huge palate and variety (we serve to).”
One recent change was extending the hours of several campus dining locations, starting on Oct. 24.
Vista Grande Café is now open until 2 a.m. Monday through Friday and until 11 p.m. on weekends. Ciao!, Village Market and Starbucks are all open until midnight, and 19 Metro Station is now open on Sundays until 9 p.m.
That move was in response to individual student feedback, Sage restaurant unit manager Margi Braden said, as well as the larger number of freshmen on campus needing a few extra hours at night to get food.
One student who noticed the change is computer engineering junior Cecilia Cadenas, who said she’s already taken advantage of Starbucks’ new midnight closing time.
“I noticed last week and I was like ‘Yes,’” Cadenas said.
Though eating on-campus food is convenient for her, Cadenas said the quality “isn’t amazing,” and she would like to see more assortment and lower prices.
In addition to extended hours, there are also new food options at various campus venues. Campus Market now offers a baked potato bar and a larger salad bar, Nishinaga said, and 19 Metro Station has been renovated and now has an “All You Care To Eat” buffet with hot food stations and a cereal, salad and dessert bar. Ciao! (previously Backstage Pizza) has also introduced new options including pasta bowls, pizza breads and a new salad bar.
Despite the changes, some students such as microbiology freshman Calvin Kim would like more.
Kim said the food at 19 Metro Station could be better, and he would also like the hours at Sandwich Factory and Lucy’s Juice to be extended so he could stop there later in the afternoon.
In addition to new food options, Nishinaga said various food venues around campus have monthly specials with limited-time offers. For example, the current special at Sandwich Factory is the turkey cranberry sandwich with a drink for $7.20.
Another new dining experience this year is the Burger Bar in Sage restaurant, which offers ten different burger choices, including the cheese-stuffed Lucy Juicy Burger and the vegetarian Three Bean Burger. The venue also offers salads, malts and milkshakes.
VG Café and Sage executive chef Chris Dunham said burger bars are “the new hip thing” in restaurants around the country, and he wanted to offer burgers that were substantial but also “higher end” than those offered at other places on campus such as 19 Metro Station, Nishinaga said.
This isn’t the first time Campus Dining has responded to trends. Approximately two years ago, the Curbside Grill food truck was brought in because it was seeing a national trend, and it wanted to have a mobile option to serve students who were traveling around campus.
Last spring, Campus Dining introduced food carts near Dexter Lawn as yet another way to bring food around campus for students.
It has also introduced a new approach to meal plans.
Nishinaga said Campus Dining received feedback that “a lot of people wanted a smaller meal plan,” and so they created the new Fast Pass program, made up of Commuter Blocks and Lunch Passes.
Commuter Blocks allow students to pay for fewer meals per week and at lower prices than the standard dining plan — even as few as one per week, Nishinaga said. She said this option was intended for students living off-campus. Lunch Passes allow blocks of five, 10 or 20 “passes” to be loaded onto PolyCards or paper tickets for lunch.
And people appreciate the efforts of Campus Dining to provide more options and extend hours, Nishinaga said.
The Fast Pass program has been a “huge success,” she said, and said they often receive complimentary emails about the new changes.
Another change that is coming soon to campus is a Subway, which will open where The Park and Dexter Subs & More were previously located. There isn’t another food option in the area other than Tacos-to-Go, and so it was important to bring an additional dining option, Nishinaga said.
Campus Dining does a lot of research before deciding to do business with a franchise such as Subway, Nishinaga said. Factors such as what’s “trending” and whether the prices would work for customers play a large part in their decision to accept new businesses on campus. Subway is an “internationally recognized” franchise among customers, she said.
And the campus location will be two-in-one, Nishinaga said — it will have two stations where sandwiches can be ordered, and will also have an express window where orders can be texted in by phone and picked up.
Subway’s local director of real estate development Justin Johnson said the restaurant has been in contact with the university intermittently since 2006, when it submitted a proposal to build a location in Poly Canyon Village.
There’s “a lot of foot traffic” and fewer food options at the intended campus Subway location, Johnson said. He also said the decision to open up a location at Cal Poly “made sense on both sides.”
It made sense for Subway because there is a large captive audience at Cal Poly, Johnson said. The majority of students who want something to eat while on campus won’t leave because they don’t have time, so they’ll look for more convenient options close by.
Johnson also said college-age people are an important target for any business, because they are starting to make their own path and develop habits in the brands they choose.
Subway has other locations on college campuses nationwide and several on California campuses, Johnson said. The company focuses on “value and affordable prices,” he said, and when people are in college, money has to go a long way.
Neither Nishinaga nor Johnson know an exact date for the opening of the campus Subway, but both said it would happen winter quarter — sometime “between March and April,” according to Johnson.
Campus Dining is never done looking ahead, according to Nishinaga. She said they are “always chomping at the bit” to introduce new and better things. They know what people like based on what they’re eating and how much they’re eating.
“As literally as people change every year and come in … You’re going to have to change constantly, so we’ll constantly evolve,” Nishinaga said.