Students speak at Dining Committee, Lang outlines changes

Meeting touches on Brooks punch cards, plans for further student engagement


Sami Mirza

Stephanie Lang, general manager of Parkhurst Dining at Allegheny College, speaks to students during the Dining Committee meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

The Allegheny Dining Committee met on Tuesday, Sept. 28 in the private dining room at McKinley’s Food Court. Students and the four faculty members in attendance enjoyed complimentary pizza from Hot Tomato Pizza and salad.

First on the agenda were introductions of the faculty members: Stephanie Lang, general manager for Parkhurst Dining; Lori Chiodo, director at McKinley’s Food Court; Daisy Rundio, marketing coordinator; and Maria Foxall, who runs Brooks Dining Hall and Pine Market.

“This is our first in-person dining committee meeting in two years, so I’m thrilled you’re all here,” Lang said.

The conversation moved to a summary of the changes to Allegheny dining from 2020. The vast majority of students in attendance were on campus last semester, so they were familiar with these changes. For example, since last year, McKinley’s Food Court has transitioned from entirely mobile ordering to half-mobile ordering and half-in-person ordering.

“The reasons we made those decisions to keep (Pastasciutta and Firehouse Grill) mobile specifically is they require the most amount of wait time,” Lang stated, further explaining that the food at these two stations is made to order, all from scratch. The other three stations, on the other hand, are in Lang’s terms, “built to order.”

Another change was the addition of Hot Tomato Pizza. Lang remarked that this is their “guinea pig station,” as students can order pizza both in-person by the slice and on their phone for a whole pie.

“We’re learning a lot on our side with that station, and maybe down the road more stations can become (hybrid),” Lang said.

On the other side of the street, Brooks has returned to all-reusable products, including the popular green box, and Parkhurst has introduced the all-inclusive island into the dining hall.

“Everything around the center is included with your meal swipe,” Lang said. This “free island” contains salads and grain bowls, fruit baked goods and a toasting station.

Brooks has also transitioned to a three-week menu cycle this year as opposed to the two-week cycle last year.

“The feedback has been great … it gives us a lot of flexibility,” Foxall said.

If someone wants pierogies, for example, the staff can easily add that into the rotation, Foxall elaborated.

Lang then discussed “The Sycamore” pub in Reis Hall and how its official opening will be Thursday, Oct. 21. This will be a Halloween-themed costume party, with food and “even more expanded menus on alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.” She later remarked that the Friday, Sept. 17 event “had positive reviews from faculty, staff and administration, but it fell short on students.” Lang stated this is the reason that the next event will be more student-based, with prizes and giveaways.

The second item on the agenda was addressing the  all-you-care-to-eat program at Brooks Dining Hall, how it is no longer in place, and the pros and cons while it was in place.

Lang asked students what they loved about this former program, and a general consensus was that one could eat whatever one wanted, as much as one wanted. Once scanned in at the door, you did not have to worry about leaving your punch card at the table, because you did not have a punch card.

“It felt like a simpler system,” one of the students said.

On the other hand, some of the Parkhurst staff agreed that this new point system is confusing and complicated. One student cited calculating how many points your meal would cost you as a source of said confusion and complication.

Lang pointed out that a downside to the all-you-care-to-eat program was that not everyone ate a full meal every time they went to Brooks.

“Once you swiped, yeah, you were in,” Lang said. …  “But what if you only wanted a cup of coffee?”

The point system allows students to weigh their options, something that was not necessarily an option when the former system was in place. Another positive about this new program, according to Lang, is that students do not have to throw away the food they do not finish or swipe a second time for a take-out box.

“It basically (eliminates) our food waste,” Lang said.

An extensive question-and-answer session took place next. Students asked about such things as upping the number of points per punch card, keeping the sauté station at Brooks Dining Hall open later to accommodate athletes, and the inconsistency between The Grill and Spoon and Fork in terms of what counts as a point.

“At (Spoon and Fork), you serve French fries, and I can get French fries for free, but then you serve French fries at The Grill, and I get a punch for it,” one student remarked.

“We have some clunkiness,” Lang said, adding that Parkhurst is working to fix this and similar issues.

Lastly, Lang outlined some upcoming events on campus. McKinley’s Food Court will be having a “Soup-er Bowl” on Oct. 25, with all sorts of soups available. Towards the end of the month, there will be a scavenger hunt, hosted by Rundio, featuring merchandise and prizes.

“We try our best to post a lot of comment boxes and surveys, and we definitely get a good turnout of feedback,” Rundio said. “Our students here are very interactive and love to talk to us and tell us what’s going on.”

For updates on what is going on at Brooks Dining Hall and McKinley’s Food Court, follow @alleghenydining on Instagram.

The next Allegheny Dining Committee meeting will take place on Oct. 26 at 12:45 p.m.