Frank Bailey and the team of Boston College Dining Services are tightening up plans for an Aug. 31 return to on-campus classes. While remote learning is an option, the dining team is focused on those students and staff who will be physically on campus, where everyone will be required to wear masks while indoors and abide by safety rules from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
When it comes to dining locations and menus, the approach has been one of streamlining and safety, says Bailey, whose expertise in menu engineering is coming in very handy at this time.
“We’ve constructed all of our lines in the main dining units to be very streamlined and controlled in terms of how the students walk about the servery,” he says. “All serving lines are covered in plexiglass as well as the cashier stands, since we are 100% retail.”
Contact-free payment will have two options (tap and go or a swipe of a meal card) and all lines will be marked with six-foot stickers for distancing and equipped with hand-sanitizing stations.
“We anticipate increased grab-and-go items due to the fact that our self-service salad bars were very popular pre-COVID. We also have increased the number of items our commissary will produce to add more variety for the students,” Bailey, left, says. In addition, three mobile ordering pickup sites around campus will allow students to order and pay all from their phone. The GET Mobile app will allow for some customization.
With all that in place, the focus shifts to the menu: What exactly will students find on the line, and how is Bailey keeping BC Dining’s mission of culinary excellence going?
“BC has always prided ourselves on being mostly cooked-to-order and super customizable,” Bailey says. “This fall, we’re forced to downsize our menus and remove a good deal of customization.”
On average, for lunch and dinner in the past, there had been up to 20 to 25 different options for students to choose from. Now, there will be four or five options, plus grab-and-go items.
“Our three-week cycle menu features our most popular items, which were adapted to be served quickly while making sure the flavor and quality were not altered,” he says. “We will offer a different, slightly customizable menu through our mobile app available for pickup.”
The app will allow more customization than ordering in person, Bailey says.
The menu items selected for this form of ordering are “fan favorites” that have proven to be successful in the past, including bowls, customizable salads, flatbreads, bibimbap, dumpling bowls, steak and cheese sandwiches, poke bowls, quesadillas, grilled chicken and a few more.
Bailey is optimistic about this fall, partly because of the teamwork he’s seen during the pandemic.
“When COVID first hit, we consolidated all managers and hourly staff into one unit to feed the students who were not able to go home and we split off a small team to feed our Jesuits living on campus,” he says. “The result was managers and employees from the entire campus learning to work together (while physically distant) and learning more ways of doing things. It brought people together who didn’t know others outside of their unit. Many friendships were started and as a whole will bring more unity as a dining community versus unit by unit.”
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