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Dustin Cutler, executive director of dining services at Cornell University, joins One on One With to discuss the university's 2020/21 dining plans.

Cornell University embraces technology and student adaptability for fall semester

After closing the main dining hall, dining services turned it into a test kitchen to keep all members of the food service staff employed and busy while preparing for spring term.

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As one of Food Management’s College Power Players with one of the largest dining programs at a U.S. university, Cornell University faced a significant challenge when welcoming students back for the fall semester. How do you feed them all safely while protecting employees?

Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., closed one of its many dining halls, Oakenshields, in September and later announced it would remain closed through the end of the semester. Located in the central campus, Oakenshields is the dining hall closest to where almost every class is held. However, with the COVID pandemic foot traffic at the college’s once-busiest dining hall is not down to between 20 and 20 people each day.

The solution: satellite meal pickup locations. These locations across campus allow students to pick up meals on the go when dining halls are limited with capacity restrictions, allowing them to pay with dining dollars.

To help stem the flow of traffic and meet capacity restrictions in dining halls, Cornell partnered with reservation app OpenTable for a beta test. The new version of the app allows students to make reservations in each dining hall for meals whether they’re dining in or taking out.

What happened to the vast unused building that was once Oakenshields? Dustin Cutler, executive director of dining services, and his team turned it into a test kitchen training staff, testing out new recipes and experimenting while keeping every member of the dining program on staff during slower business.

Listen to the full interview with Dustin Cutler to learn more about the new technology and fall dining plans.

Contact Holly at [email protected]

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