Sahara Sriraman, Contributing Writer
VCU has made major modifications to dining locations on campus as of Feb. 15, including closures and hour changes, in order to adapt to changing circumstances from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
VCUDine hosted a student roundtable on Feb. 4 in order to get students’ opinions on specific dining plan changes. After the event, VCU sent a survey to students with dining plans asking them to select their top dining locations.
“Based on the responses, we modified our hours and locations to better accommodate their needs,” said VCU Business Services spokesperson Anna Obermiller in an email.
Only about 600 people responded to the survey out of roughly 3,050 students who have a university dining plan, Obermiller said. Student dining locations that are still open were based on the results of the student survey and the student population.
Some of the altered dining hours and locations, according to VCU Dining Services, include:
- Bleecker St. will open inside Market 810 on March 1
- Market 810 is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on the weekends from 10:30 a.m. until 6 p.m.
- Chili’s is open every day at 2 p.m. for take-out and pick-up
- AVO Kitchen is open every day from 1-7 p.m.
- Starbucks at Cabell Library closes at 4 p.m. every day
- Au Bon Pain is closed on weekends
- Pizza Hut is closed
- Laurel & Grace Place is under construction
All open dining locations on campus accept student swipes.
Bleecker St. was previously located in the School of Business’ Snead Hall, but since classes switch to a virtual modality, the university decided to make it available seven days a week in a more central location.
The university has allocated more resources for dining locations that students ranked higher, including Market 810, Obermiller said. Below are the top dining locations for the spring semester.
- Market 810 averages 400 transactions per day
- AVO Kitchen averages 321 transactions
- Au Bon Pain averages 183 transactions
- Panda Express averages 478 transactions
- Cabell Library Starbucks averages 438 transactions
“We knew Bleecker St. would be a big hit with our students and have since expressed excitement about its reopening,” Obermiller said.
She said students also pushed for Market 810 to be open on weekends.
Obermiller said since these modifications have only been implemented for a couple of weeks, the university is still monitoring the dining locations’ success through student feedback.
Freshman fashion merchandise student Dixie Delcid said she’s living on campus in Gladding Residence Center and is required to use a dining plan. Delcid said it’s discouraging that VCU is choosing to make changes at a time when many students are inconvenienced.
“It’s a little disappointing that there aren’t as many options that we have,” Delcid said.
Delcid said she tends to eat at places on campus like AVO Kitchen and Chick-fil-A but not at Market 810 or Panda Express because they’re at a farther distance from her dorm.
Delcid said many on-campus restaurants have changed their hours, making them less accessible for some students.
“We’re still paying regular tuition to be here, but we’re lacking actual resources,” Delcid said.
Sophomore environmental studies and political science major Amrutha Obbineni said she doesn’t like the new dining changes. After mentoring four freshman students through the Emerging Leaders Program, she’s seen how difficult it is for them to find places to eat on campus.
Obbineni said as a freshman last year, she was required to have a meal plan. She said at the end of each semester, a lot of swipes were left over. This year, she didn’t purchase a meal plan and has been able to cook her own food.
Students living in Brandt, Johnson and Rhoads halls, as well as GRC and Gladding Residence Center III, are required to have dining plans, according to VCUDine. The default dining plan is 200 swipes and 300 dining dollars for students in those dorms.
Obbineni said she doesn’t appreciate how the university is charging the same amount for meal plans this year, given the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of multiple locations on campus.
“Especially for people with dietary restrictions,” Obbineni said. “It’s crazy that they don’t have as many options this year.”