APU’s dining services have gone through many changes since students last stepped on campus. Read more to find out about these changes and what students think of them.

Update: On Sept. 25, the APU One Card Office sent out an email to students that meal zones would be eliminated, effective immediately. Additionally, the dining hall will stay open from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. with the start date to be announced soon.

The changes to Azusa Pacific University’s dining services are some of many the school has implemented over the last few years. The structure of meal plans, available venues, and hours of operation are just a few of the recent changes to APU’s dining services.

As many students know, meal plans have shifted from a single balance throughout the semester to a combination of meal swipes and flex dollars. Heather Snyder, the Director of Auxiliary Services here at APU, explained in an interview the reason for this change.

“Consistently I heard the concern and the negative feelings, especially towards the end of the semester, when students would have a lot of points left over,” she said.

In addition to complaints voiced in end-of-semester surveys, Snyder also mentioned that with the old meal plan format, students and parents were confused about the number of meals received each week.

By implementing meal swipes and flex dollars, students and parents know how many weekly meals they get without the burden of having a weekly budget that needs to be balanced and maintained. 

“What I think people with this new structure don’t totally understand is that even though it was a point system [in the past], you did have an average amount per week that you would need to spend to make sure that you were finished with it by the end of the semester,” said Snyder.

Although the goal of the new meal plan format was to alleviate student stress and decrease wasted money, some students have had trouble using all their meals for the week.

Sophomore accounting major Mikaela Mueller spoke out about this concern, saying, “Last week I used four out of my nine meals, and I just think that’s wasting so much money. So basically, five of those meals I basically can’t have back. So I’m wasting a lot of money.”

Despite the difficult transition from a single balance to meal swipes and flex dollars, Snyder is confident that students will adjust to the new system with time, and she hopes the new format will help students manage their dining plans with more ease than in previous years. 

“It really was my heart and intention to really try to solve some of these concerns so that [students] are not feeling like they have all these points left over and like they’re wasting money,” said Snyder.

Another recent change that has taken place for APU’s dining services is a shift in venues. Many students have already noticed that Mexicali, Sam’s Subs and Umai Sushi have closed down. Along with the shift to fewer campus dining venues are the meals offered and the ways to order them.

For example, Cougars’ Den has become a Grubhub-only venue — a change made in hopes to decrease lines and increase speed. Also, Mexicali may be closed, but Mexican food options are still available to students at The Grill on west campus.

When asked about why three venues have been shut down, Snyder said a lack of staffing and desire from students to work has been part of the issue, especially after COVID-19. 

Even though there are fewer spots to dine on campus this year, Snyder is still committed to quality and believes fewer venues will help APU Dining Services focus on giving students a valuable experience.

“There’s multiple layers and things that went into those decisions to really try to still provide the best quality of service. If you have too many spaces, you may not be able to provide the best service because it’s spread out,” said Snyder.

While favorites like Sam’s Subs and Umai Sushi are no longer available, students are finding satisfaction in other dining spots on campus, such as Cougars’ Den, more commonly referred to as “the Den.”

Both Mueller and Austin said the Den was their favorite spot to eat on campus and that they appreciated the consistency the venue provides. The Den is also Grubhub-only, which adds to the efficiency and convenience of going there.

“I think having the Den just Grubhub is way better than it was last year because everybody would go there. I think it’s good that we have one place that’s just Grubhub and the other [The Grill] both,” Austin said.

Another concern for students are meal zones and hours, which Snyder also recognizes. According to both Austin and Mueller, venues simply aren’t open long enough to accommodate their schedules.

“I definitely think they need to have places open longer, for sure. Just change the hours to make them work for students. The Den is literally open at 1 and closes at like 6:30. That just doesn’t really work for a lot of people, so I think that is the number one thing that needs to change,” Austin said.

Along with longer dinner hours, Mueller voiced concerns about limited breakfast options; “The only option for breakfast is the dining hall. That should not be the only thing for breakfast. They closed the den with the burritos … that was my main source of breakfast every day here,” she said.

While adjusting to new hours of operation and various meal zones, there are some options that provide students with hectic schedules a little more flexibility aside from using flex dollars.

“For Paws ‘N Go, I like how you can do the meal with one water, one thing of fruit, and either a salad or a sandwich and that’s considered a meal. That’s a good way of doing it, I think, for some people who want it more accessible,” said Mueller.

All in all, APU Dining Services says they are committed to serving students and listening to their needs. Snyder encourages students to reach out to APU’s dining services (diningservices@apu.edu) with any concerns, questions or feedback they may have. 

Most of all, Snyder wants to make sure APU Dining Services are helping bring students a sense of community here on campus: “We want everyone to feel like they can have community. Eating around a table with friends, that’s one of the most important college experiences … We don’t want any student to not feel like that’s a place that they feel that they can come to. It is definitely high up on our priority list.”