Amidst the constant change over the past year, the six eateries on campus have continued to adjust with patience in order to better meet the needs and interests of students on campus.
The past six months of the 2021-2022 school year have been anything but smooth and easy.
With anxiety about whether the second semester would be virtual or not, constant changes in spectator guidelines at sporting events and multiple adjustments in Los Angeles County COVID-19 protocols, students and staff have tried their best to roll with the punches.
One part of campus that has undergone many changes over the past few months is Dining Services which continues to adjust in ways that affect students.
The 1899 Dining Hall, managed by Bon Appétit since 2019, along with the other five eateries on campus — including Hillside Grounds, Shalom Cafe, Mexi-Cali Grill, Cougars’ Den Cafe, and Sam’s Subs — have pushed through multiple changes over the past year to compensate for the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and understaffing issues.
The Dining Hall was temporarily closed during the first few weeks of the 2021-2022 academic year due to COVID-19 protocols and labor shortages.
Its reopening phase began in October with very specific times for meals, starting with brunch on the weekend, breakfast and lunch during a full week and only dinner on the first week of November.
“The reopening went as smoothly as it could with the staffing shortages we faced,” said Heather Snyder, who has worked directly with Bon Appétit for the past year. “We were able to meet each deadline that we promised so we were happy that we were able to do that even with those challenges.”
By Nov. 1, the school was able to get the Dining Hall back to some semblance of normal operation hours.
Although the Dining Hall hours have returned to normal, a few of the other eateries’ hours changed at the beginning of the spring semester.
For example, Mexi-Cali, which used to be open for breakfast, now opens at 11 a.m. rather than 9 a.m. Hillside Grounds, Sam’s Subs, and Mexi-Cali still remain closed on the weekends as well.
The Spring Semester eateries’ hours of operation can be found on the Dining Services page of the APU Website.
This has caused problems to arise not only for the convenience of students seeking food but also for student workers trying to manage their jobs with classes.
Student-athlete and freshman, Dominic Gonzalez, has worked at the Den since the beginning of the first semester.
“For a while, the Den was really good at working around and being flexible with my track schedule. If I wanted more hours they were more than willing to help me find some. But once we changed our hours for the second semester, it became more of a struggle since a lot of open slots conflicted with my practice and class schedule,” Gonzalez said.
Zeke Nyberg, a freshman on the cross country and track teams and a double major in both finance and economics, explained that the Dining Hall only being open for two hours at a time is very inconvenient for him.
Nyberg said, “In the mornings, I don’t have enough time to get food because the Dining Hall closes too early and nothing else is open yet before my classes. Plus, the hours for dinnertime are also very conflicting with my afternoon practices and class schedule, so some weeks I just eat at the Den for most of my meals since it is open the longest.”
His suggestion is that the Dining Hall should extend its hours for meals to 7-10 a.m. for breakfast and 6-8 p.m. for dinner.
Snyder’s response to the change in hours from last semester is, “Every semester we assess the hours and the traffic at each venue to set the hours of operation for the next semester.”
She said that Dining Services sent out a survey to students in December 2021 to gain feedback from students to assist Bon Appétit in hearing the needs of students so that they can continue to make changes this semester.
“We realized some of the issues were coming from a lack of communication on our part to students about what types of food are available to them to meet their specific dietary needs. So, we are committed to improving our communication this semester,” Synder added.
The Dining Services staff has committed to adjust and listen to the concerns of students — especially to compensate for the lack of eating options on West Campus.
Snyder says another problem they are working through right now is that there are still supply chain issues with the vendors that supply the food, but they are doing their best to get the products they need to best serve the students.
Amanda Dominguez, a freshman at Azusa Pacific University who plans to double major in honors humanities and economics, said, “I think they’re doing the best they can given the circumstances of the previous year. The staff is very helpful, patient and are always nice at all points in the day.”
Dominguez said she’s also recognized and strongly appreciated their efforts in adhering to Los Angeles County’s constant changes in COVID-19 mandates and protocols including allowing students to be served or serve themselves and their efficiency with takeout GrubHub orders across all eateries.
However, Dominguez, along with other students, mentioned that there should be more food options for the price students have to pay to swipe into the Dining Hall.
With Heritage Court still in the process of renovations, Bon Appétit and Snyder have worked together to add new ideas like acai bowls to the menu at Hillside Grounds, catered events like an Indian-themed dinner at the Dining Hall last semester or weekly “Breakfast for Dinner” options.
Recently, after careful deliberation in response to the concerns of parents and students, Azusa Pacific University also made the decision to adjust its dining plans for the upcoming school year.
On Feb. 4, the new and updated plan was publicly announced and will take effect starting fall of 2022.
“I would like to thank our students and APU community for their patience and understanding as we have navigated through this difficult time,” said Snyder. “We know that there have been challenges but my hope would be that the students know that we are listening and making improvements so that we can provide the best possible dining experience. It is important to me that we keep the conversation going and gain more feedback from our students and community.”