By MATT LEIBOWITZ
The new semester has brought many updates to the dining options available to students. Sushi has been made available in the Nest and Li’l Joe’s has made additions to their Starbucks menu. The Underground renamed the Underground Café, has both changed their hours and menu while also being newly managed by students.
Rose Benedict, the Unit Marketing Coordinator for the University of Mary Washington Dining Services, said that none of these changes were made without deep consideration of the community. “Last year we conducted some in-depth surveys of UMW student dining preferences and learned that there was a big demand for sushi,” she said. This survey led to the decision to bring Hissho Sushi to the Nest. “They are experts in this field and their product is always of the highest quality,” said Benedict. She also added that student response has been overwhelmingly positive. “[Hissho Sushi] either sell[s] out or come[s] very close to selling out of their products every day,” she said.
Senior international affairs major Chloe Chindgren was very excited about the new addition of sushi. “I have tried it and I get it almost every week,” she said.
Despite its success, other students weren’t thrilled with the change in pricing and the removal of last year’s Hot Spot, which Hissho Sushi replaced.
Senior Hannah Woehrle, a communications major, said “I’m disappointed the Hot Spot is gone. It was less expensive and you got more food for your money. You were only able to use flex, and that’s still the case, but I felt it was more reasonable when the price was lower.”
Chindgren was willing to get her sushi fix in spite of the cost. “I think the price is a little high but if I manage it right, I can work it into my flex [budget] once a week, maybe twice,” she said. “Otherwise, I think it’s a little pricey.”
Another change this year is the introduction of students working at the Underground. “Campus Dining is working in cooperation with the University to provide UMW students some real-life business experience with regard to the Underground operations,” Rose Benedict said. Students are not just watching and learning. They will also receive hands-on experience. “They decided upon a new name ‘Underground Café’, a new menu and new operational hours (11am-11pm),” said Benedict.
According to Benedict, “the menu is currently being reviewed to see if changes are needed to keep it on track with UMW student dining trends.”
The new student involvement program at the Underground is not affiliated with the College of Business. “Employment at the Underground is open to both UMW students and non-students. As far as we know, managing students do not have to be in the UMW School of Business,” said Benedict.
“I love that it’s run and now managed by students. I am a big fan of the new hour changes too,” said senior political science major Alex Sakes. “The new hours allow me to have some variety at lunchtime which is greatly appreciated. If there was something open on campus every weeknight until 1 a.m. or so, I would find that a great asset as a student who is up at midnight frequently studying,” he said. “But 11 p.m. dining cutoff is pretty reasonable so I can’t complain too much.”
Seasonal Starbucks flavors have been available at Li’l Joe’s since before last fall. “In our ‘Cookies & Conversation’ residence hall meetings last fall we learned that many students did not know that Li’l Joe’s served Starbucks coffee,” said Benedict. “And, although we did serve the Starbucks seasonal flavors, most students were not aware of that fact either.”
New this year, Li’l Joe’s has upgraded its equipment to be able to serve Starbucks frappuccinos.“Li’l Joe’s also has a reusable mug campaign this year. “The ‘Choose To Reuse’ mug campaign gave students the opportunity to buy a reusable mug for only $2, which also came with a coupon for a free regular Starbucks coffee at Li’l Joe’s,” said Benedict. “The reusable mugs also allows students to get 50 cents off the purchase of a regular tall Starbucks coffee, hot tea or fountain beverage at Li’l Joe’s, Qdoba or the Nest,” she said.
Many students were unaware of these options, including Sakes. “I think it’s cool they have a Starbucks menu, but I see many more students frequenting Blackstone for coffee than I do Li’l Joe’s,” he said.
Woehrle agreed. “It seems a little redundant because of Blackstone, but if I’m getting black coffee, it’s better at Li’l Joe’s and their pastries are better,” she said. “For fancy drinks, I usually go to Blackstone. I would go to Li’l Joe’s if I could use Starbucks gift cards there, but I doubt I can.”