Dining on campus will look different this fall, as efforts are made to maintain social distancing and minimize cross-contact, said Erich Geiger, senior director of dining and catering for University Housing and Dining.
All dining locations will be open but may be operating in different ways, Geiger said. Changes to dining halls include more locations, extended hours, different layouts and less variety in food served.
“We were wanting to make as safe an environment as possible for students coming back on campus,” Geiger said.
Kinsolving Dining and Jester 2nd Floor Dining, the two primary dining halls on campus, are both located within residence halls. To de-densify these locations, Jester City Limits and Littlefield Patio Cafe will also open as primary dining hall locations in the fall, Geiger said.
UHD will also add a late-night meal at dining hall locations Monday through Thursday from 9 p.m. to 11:00 p.m, Geiger said. Dining hall locations previously closed at 9 p.m.
In the dining halls, social distancing will be managed both inside the serving area and outside, where there will be a queue. A limited number of patrons will be allowed inside the serving area at a time to maintain safety, Geiger said.
Dining hall layouts have changed significantly, with different rooms for serving and seating, Geiger said. Lots of signage will be in the dining halls to help patrons navigate these changes, he said.
Cross-contact is what occurs when students touch an item, then another student touches the same item, Geiger said. To avoid this, there will be no self-service at dining locations in the fall.
Vegetarian options will still be offered at dining locations, and allergy-friendly options will be available at both J2 and at Kinsolving, Geiger said. There will also be ready-to-go meals offered at convenience stores Jester City Market, Kin’s Market and Bliss.
Mary Escobar-Bonner, a lead cashier at Littlefield Patio Cafe, said she thinks timing could be an issue this fall, as the amount of students allowed inside a dining hall at once is limited. She said the location started limiting occupants during spring break, and as a result, there were lines outside the door where the patio area was filled with people.
“We’re going to have to learn how to get the customers in (and) be able to be courteous and speedy at the same time so that they can get out, so that we can get more kids in, because everybody’s got to eat,” Escobar-Bonner said.
To maintain speed of service, the variety of dining hall offerings will be reduced in the fall, Geiger said. Students will also be able to look at menus to decide what they want prior to entering a dining hall.
Economics senior Chang Guo purchased a Longhorn 25 commuter meal plan last year, and plans to continue using it in the fall. He said the University’s plans to enforce social distancing in the dining halls and offer ready-to-go meals stood out to him.
“Overall, I feel like UT is doing a good job as far as ensuring student safety in the dining facilities,” Guo said. “I will definitely be giving their dining options a try in the fall.”
By Meara Isenberg
Illustration by Dan Martinez