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February 24, 2014

The state of Dining Services

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Written by: Luke Henning
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East Commons' Subway opened shop on Thursday. Photo by Monica Linzmeier, Photo Editor

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The State of Dining Services

During the past three years, San Diego State’s food landscape has been changing almost as quickly as its physical landscape.

In order to help make sense of the changes, Dining Services Director Paul Melchior addressed what’s happening behind the scenes.

Subway opens in East Commons

On Feb. 20, hundreds of students went to the East Commons food court to eat at the new Subway that opened that morning.

The space Subway now occupies has housed both the Sub Connection and West Coast Sandwich Company in the past four years. Both of these businesses featured healthy food options, but the emphasis on ingredients led to financial problems, Melchior said.

“We had to subsidize West Coast Sandwich Company for most of its time on campus,” Melchior said. “They just couldn’t compete with Subway’s price point.”

Subway has been talking to Dining Services about opening a location on campus for the past seven years, Melchior said.

Subway was among the restaurants being considered for the food court on the first floor of the student union but didn’t make the cut, Melchior said.

Dining Services surveys students and faculty annually to gauge its success in providing for students’ needs, Melchior said. Subway had a major breakthrough when the most recent survey found a demand within the community for a cheaper dining option.

“There is only a finite (amount) of money on campus when it comes to food,” Melchior said. “We want to give students as many options as possible but we also don’t want to break their bank.”

The newly opened student union Starbucks is  one of the largest in California. Photo by Monica Linzmeier, Photo Editor

The newly opened student union Starbucks is one of the largest in California. Photo by Monica Linzmeier, Photo Editor

Student union Starbucks holds campus-wide drink contest

Starbucks have done “Barista Calls It” in the past, where employees’ favorite drinks are featured for the week. This time around, SDSU customers have the say.

Dining Services and Starbucks are hosting a contest for SDSU students, faculty and staff to create a signature drink to be featured in the student union location all semester. Callahan said Associated Students requested the contest.

SDSU’s 2,200-square-foot student union Starbucks is the biggest in the state, SDSU Starbucks General Manager Dina Callahan said.

Contestants must visit the SDSU Dining Services Facebook, enter their email, a catchy drink title and secret recipe before midnight on Feb. 28. Everyone except for Starbucks employees can participate.

The Starbucks managers of the on-campus locations will go through the submissions and pick the top five. Three judges from SDSU Foodies will join the Starbucks managers to choose the winning drink based on originality.

“We will base it on flavor, consistency and our professional knowledge,” Callahan said. “We want a good drink for people to buy.”

Immediately following Feb. 28, the judging panel will choose the winning drink with the top five contestants present. The panel is still deciding on the date, but the winner will be announced the same night as the panel review.

Callahan said one of the goals of the contest was to promote the student union and get students to socialize at their neighboring locations.

“It’s about embracing our neighbors and getting our students involved,” Callahan said. “Just keeping it one big happy family.”

While the winning drink will only be featured at the student union Starbucks, the other two on-campus locations will make it upon request as well.

Starbucks’ old space up for grabs

With Starbucks’ move from East Commons to its new larger location in the student union, a new restaurant space is available in East Commons.

“We took the time to put in the infrastructure for a restaurant there and I hate would to see that investment go to waste,” Melchior said.

He said requests for bids on the space have been released but its fate won’t be decided until this summer.

“We are evaluating the overall impact of the student union on the overall campus dining business for the remainder of the semester,” Melchior said.

New Dining Services location on campus

At the north end of Storm Hall, construction began on a new cafe operated by Dining Services. The location will feature an updated Aztec Market, Starbucks and a panini shop similar to the Olive Oil Cafe, Melchior said.

“We want the whole facility to have a more modern aesthetic like the restaurants opening in the union,” Melchior said.

The building will have an open-air second floor dining area with the restaurant space indoors on the bottom floor, SDSU Chief Communications Officer Greg Block said.

Melchior said he expects the building to be completed by next fall.

Photo by Monica Linzemeier, photo editor. 

Contributor Maleah Vidal also contributed to this report. 

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