University of Indianapolis Dining Services has implemented changes to its food and overall cafeteria design this year. According to General Manager of UIndy Dining Steven Conners, these changes were made to provide a “safe, comfortable, and familiar environment” for anyone who has a meal at the various on-campus dining options.
According to Conners, these changes stem from a variety of places including student survey responses and trends in dining at college campuses, because UIndy as a community needs keep up with other universities in allergen awareness and food selection.
“The biggest thing about the menu and options this year is that this year, for the first time, every food item is labeled with one of the eight most common food allergens,” Conners said. “So we’re very aware of our audience and their need to eat food that is free of allergens.”
Furthermore, according to the university’s Dining webpage, items on food menus also are changed on a 28-day rotating calendar, where all meals are different every day until the start of day 29, when the meal cycle repeats itself.
Conners said that UIndy dining has received a lot of positive feedback from incorporating more vegetarian options, which he finds both surprising and encouraging, and that the stir fry and panini stations are very popular. Students are responding to these changes and improvements in various products by speaking with the staff and responding to UIndy dining posts on social media.
Junior social work major Jaylan Steele, who has lived on campus since his freshman year, said there were both positive and negative changes to the food.
“I feel like there is a fresher salad bar. It tastes better, [and] the fruit tastes better,” Steele said. “But the macaroni and cheese is not the best…. I went there the other day, and it wasn’t bad food, so there are good days and bad days.”
Along with the changes to the food, the cafeteria also has changed the design of kitchen areas and dining seating, according to Conners.
“The biggest thing . . . the university is doing is really trying to brighten it up, lighten it up, open it up with a brand new brighter, cleaner color scheme,” Conners said. “Coming in late September will be a whole new lighting package that will make things much brighter and more inviting . . . They have hung what they call clouds from the ceiling, which has made the space more intimate by bringing the ceiling down.”
According to Conners, other changes include music played during meals and mosaic artwork at the food stations. UIndy Dining also wants to add café-style furniture. Conners said the changes were made because the university decided that the cafeteria needed an update.
“I think a big driving force was our university president, Rob Manuel, and simply wanting to offer a space that was inviting and comfortable for students, faculty and staff,” Conners said.
Students also have noticed these changes and provided positive feedback about the new décor.
“I think the cafeteria looks cool,” Steele said. “I like how it’s darker, and they [UIndy Dining] play music now. The design seems more modern. It makes you feel relaxed and seems roomier.”
According to Conners, there is a renewed focus on the environmental experience of the dining hall.
“We’re hoping that it creates an environment that people enjoy coming to.…” he said. “We’re really trying to create an inviting environment…an extension of what guests would find at home.”