Where have all the good fries gone? New dorm diner gets served some negative feedback

by Beacon Staff • October 11, 2006

The building, which houses the new Max Mutchnick Center, includes meeting rooms, offices for student run organizations, a state of the art gymnasium complete with on site broadcasting equipment and a new diner.,When the Piano Row residence hall opened this semester, returning students were excited to hear about what the new building had to offer them.

The building, which houses the new Max Mutchnick Center, includes meeting rooms, offices for student run organizations, a state of the art gymnasium complete with on site broadcasting equipment and a new diner.

But not all students are pleased with what the new dining facility is serving up.

"I don't like how it's set up," says freshman acting major Charlotte Jussino.

"The entrance is an inconvenience and it's just confusing. People don't even know it's an entrance. I think that they need more variety. I'm getting really tired of having pasta every night."

In an attempt to replace the dining facilities that were lost as a result of the college's relocation process (the Zero Marlborough Diner was closed when the West Side residences were sold last year), architects for the Piano Row project included plans for a new diner.

It wasn't ready for student use, however, when the residence halls were officially opened in the fall for new and returning students.

"The opening of the diner was delayed due to architectural problems," said Dave Dannells, director of Dining Services.

The delayed opening of the diner , however, helped in the decision for Dining Services to offer a new meal plan option to students.

"It is my understanding that students were looking for more flexibility," Danells said. "We decided to add a new meal plan with more board bucks and less meals to accommodate the requests."

With the new "Flex Plan" students receive more Board Bucks ($650) and a smaller number of meals (110) during the course of a semester.

This allows students to eat either in the Dining Hall, which deducts meals directly from their ID cards or at the new Piano Row diner, which accepts Board Bucks or cash.

Unlike the dining hall where one swipe of a card allows an all-you-can eat (and stuff in Tupperware) smorgasbord, food in the diner is purchased individually with each item set at its own set price.

The other two meal plans either give students 14 meals per week and 100 Board Bucks (Weekly Meal Plan) or 158 meals per semester and 350 Board Bucks (Block Meal Plan).

Although the addition of a new meal plan is an improvement, students are still having trouble warming up to the new diner.

Sarah Hughes, a sophomore writing, literature and publishing major, says there are still a few things she misses about Zero Marlborough.

"I liked the atmosphere and the people who worked there. They chatted with you, they joked with you," she says. "The new diner has huge walls and is separated into two rooms. There's a loss of connection to other people there."

Hughes, a member of Earth Emerson, is also concerned about the lack of recycling options available in the diner.

"I haven't seen a recycling bin in the new diner," she said. "This is a green building and they sell bottled drinks. They should have recycling facilities available in the diner."

Also a vegetarian, Hughes finds the new menu unappealing as well.

"At the new diner, especially for vegetarians, they only have a few pre-made veggie paninis to offer. If you don't like that, there's not much else for you," she said. "The new diner has the potential to be as adored as the old one. They just need to offer more options, and take into consideration the diet habits of the students who go to Emerson."

Danells said he couldn't agree more.

He encourages students to voice their opinions because that's how changes are made.

"The menu was designed to create variety and can be flexible based on student feedback," he said. "I encourage students to email their suggestions to us."

According to Danells, a suggestion box will soon be implemented in the diner where students can submit their ideas and requests for change.

Danells claims this method of feedback, where students submit their suggestions on comment cards located in the dining areas, has worked in the past to make changes and can work again.

But it all depends on how involved the students plan to be on shaping this new diner into something that they will love.

Have a suggestion for the diner? E-mail foodservice@emerson.edu.