New dining hours affect students

Joanne Ortega

Only seven weeks into the new year, dining locations have been exploring a new year and new mindset. The only problem is that students don’t like the new way of operating.

Katelin Wiley, radiology freshman, said she does not like the new hours because everything closes too early and would prefer last semester’s dining hours over the new ones.

“When I’m hungry at 7:30 p.m., everything’s closed except Maverick’s Corner and Chick-fil-A,” Wiley said, as she took a bite from her philly cheese steak sandwich from Grill Nation.

Students who have late classes have fewer options that are open after 7:30 p.m., when the Mesquite Dining Hall closes, which could cause them to grow “boring and repetitive.”

There are now longer lines of students waiting to get their food compared to last semester, which Wiley said she believes has to do with the new hours and the rush to get food before a location closes for the day.

She has had to pay for her food after not being able to simply swipe her card due to the breakfast, lunch and dinner time blocks already set.

“I had lunch at noon and after my lab I wanted to get Chick-fil-A around 4 p.m. because they close at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, but it was still the lunchtime meal block. So I had to pay for my food with flex dollars,” Wiley said.

Since the Mesquite Dining Hall seats around 300 students and requires more staff members and product to operate, it was difficult to open a large space each weekend when only 100-200 students dined each day.

Maverick’s Corner is now the only option open on the weekends from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., replacing Mesquite Dining Hall that was open last semester. All of the locations in the Clark Student Center, as well as Starbucks in Moffett Library, close earlier on Friday when some of the students go home for the weekend.

Student-athletes have different schedules that include classes and practices, but still have to find time to eat before a certain location closes.

“A lot of people may have jobs, need to do homework, etc., and it’s late at night and the cafeteria (the Mesquite Dining Hall) is closed,” Austun Lambert, physical therapy sophomore, said.

Lambert, a player for the football team, said he has to spend his money on “junk food” when it is late and the Dining Hall is closed. Of the times he has been to Maverick’s Corner they have sometimes not had the food that was on the menu and this has caused it to get replaced by something different.

“The food is better from last school year, but the hours are horrible,” Lambert said. “I just think they should keep the cafeteria open a little longer from what it’s been. A lot of these students stay up all night long studying and they don’t have anything to eat.”

Lambert said it was just a suggestion but he thinks it could benefit many of the students.

But students proposed for the hours to get extended and for Mesquite Dining Hall to stay open longer.


At the start of the spring semester, dining officials changed the hours of each location causing students to skip meals, spend money out of their own pocket or use their flex dollars.

The university is now on its second year of a partnership with Chartwells, the provider for the campus’ dining and food services.

Matthew Park, associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students, said, “We significantly expanded the amount of concepts and opportunities for both resident and commuter students, as well as employees to enjoy campus dining.”

According to Park, Mesquite Dining Hall was previously the only one dining location on campus where students with a meal plan could use a meal swipe for dining, but also had ‘declining balance dollars’ which are similar to the flex dollars in the new dining program.

“We always build the annual operating budget based on assumptions for enrollment at the university and participation in the dining program.”

Since the enrollment of freshmen and sophomore students is down compared to the previous years and they are the primary population of the school that resides on-campus and has meal plans, there are about 100 less students who are on meal plans this year than what was projected and the budgets were built around.

Park said, “[T]o somewhat balance those, some changes needed to be made in terms of the dining structure and program.”

Administrators asked Chartwells to review the records of all of the frequencies and utilizations of the dining locations, and later report back to the school with recommendations. After they identified the time periods where students weren’t dining as much, the changes in dining hours were made for the spring semester.

“The changes were made to be of the least impact on students,” he said.

The discussion and presentation of ideas began in the fall semester. The presented recommendations that Chartwells came up with were introduced to students through the food advisory committee, where feedback was provided to and received from. Specific individuals who ultimately gave the approval for the changes to be made included Park; Kristi Schulte, residence life director; and Keith Lamb, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management.

“Students, in order to have a real appreciation, need to go back and look at what dining services was like on campus two years ago, before we made the shift from what then was a partnership with Aramark to what now is a partnership with Chartwells,” Park said.

Park said the hours set this semester would possibly not be the same for the upcoming school year, because it is a dynamic and fluid process.

“The longevity and success of the program relies upon resident students far more than any population to consider,” he said.

Although various food options are available at the Mesquite Dining Hall, those with food restrictions could face some trouble finding something to eat after being released from their class at late hours. This could lead students to drive off campus and buy a meal with their own money, when they are already investing money on their meal plans.

Wiley said she likes the Mesquite Dining Hall because it has, “more variety and healthier options,” which could allow for students who are vegetarian or vegan to enjoy a meal.


Among the new staff members added to the dining management is Rukhsar Arzoo, one of the two assistant directors on campus, who also works with marketing. She has been working with Chartwells since 2014. Arzoo was the student manager at Southeast Missouri State University from 2014 to 2016 before she came to work at MSU.

Dining Director Mueen Patankar has replaced Le Thurman and has been working for about a month. Patankar has 14 years of experience in Quick Service Restaurant food service and higher education.

Patankar was unable to say why he has replaced the previous dining director and would not give any reason as to why the new dining schedule was made or who decided on it.

“I care about the students because they are away from home and family and you just have to make sure that they are happy,” Patankar said.

He said the dining staff members have gotten positive feedback on the food  and have been sharing news on the dining services through social media, Twitter being the most popular with the students on campus.

He said, “It’s based on feedback about the hours. We have to make sure we attend the business.”

Patankar suggested that the hours may have changed because not many students have been seen during the late nights.

“I’m the kind of director that likes to see changes for the better. I like to see changes based on feedback,” he said. “The dining management is working on improvements to be made for the following years and hope to grow fresh produce on campus that could later be used to cook.”

Another change this semester is the iPad installed inside the Mesquite Dining Hall for the students to view the different food options being served that day. It is connected to the campus’ dining page, where students can see the menu of all the dining places and nutrition facts for each food item.