Amid Staffing and Food Shortages, Dining Services Increase Meal Plan Options for Students

In an effort to rectify the effects of recent challenges to Colgate Dining Services operations, the University introduced a number of additional dining options for students with meal plans, including a Sunday buffet dinner at The O’Connor Campus Center (Coop) catered by The Hamilton Inn, food trucks and other on-campus vendors from local businesses, additional complimentary Bonus Dollars and an expansion of Grab-and-Go options at Frank Dining Hall. 

According to a Sept. 8 email from JS Hope ’97, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration, the catered buffet from Hamilton Inn will remain a supplementary meal option through the rest of the semester. Students can access the entire buffet with a single meal swipe. 

Since The Coop is no longer open on weekends due to Dining Services operational challenges, some students, such as first-year David Stephens, view the Sunday night buffet as a crucial extension to their weekend dining choices. 

“I think it’s a great addition because especially on Sundays, the food offerings are pretty slim on campus compared to other days of the week,” Stephens said. “And I would say the quality is pretty high compared to other dining options on campus.”

The Hamilton Inn option was popular with students: many who attended on Sept. 11, the inaugural night, waited in the buffet line for over an hour even though they arrived at 6 p.m. when the buffet opened. 

The University has also partnered with regional dining providers Royal India Grill and Spudz, who now operate food trucks on the lawn in front of The Coop at regular times during the weekdays and weekends.  

First-year Dane Picariello thought the Royal India Grill food truck was a means of expanding the variety of different foods that Colgate typically offers in its on-campus dining locations.

“It provides a nice ethnic touch to the campus experience,” Picariello said. “I think it’s a great way to introduce students that aren’t necessarily used to that type of cuisine into a whole other realm of food.” 

Spudz, a roaming food truck usually found in Utica and Rome, N.Y., offers students potato-based dishes with a “gourmet twist.” This is their first time operating on the Colgate campus. The local Hamilton café FoJo Beans also continued to operate a pop-up venue inside the O’Connor Campus Center. 

The University gave students an additional $75 in bonus dollars this semester for use at these food trucks and pop-up venues, as well as in the typical retail dining locations around campus, such as the sushi available for purchase at the Coop. 

For the first time in Colgate’s history, bonus dollars can further be used at various dining establishments throughout Madison County. In Hamilton, they can be used at Byrne Dairy, The Colgate Inn, FoJo Beans, Hamilton Inn, Subway and Royal India Grill. In Morrisville, they can be used at Annie’s Sweets and Treats and New York Pizzeria; in Madison, they can be used at Quack’s Village Inn. In his email, Hope included that he expected further restaurants and shops to begin accepting Colgate bonus dollars in the future. 

First-year Boen Beavers mentioned that, while he appreciated the complimentary bonus dollars, he was confused about where they could be applied. 

“I feel like Colgate could do a better job advertising where we can use the bonus dollars because sometimes I’m not sure. For example, I didn’t know we could use it at some places in town,” Beavers said.

Beavers further called for the use of bonus dollars to extend to include vending machines in dorms and academic buildings. 

The University also recently decided to expand the grab-and-go station at Frank Dining Hall. This option includes items like salads, sandwiches and wraps, prepared ahead of time and packaged individually for students to take away with them. The grab-and-go station is now open after 8 p.m. during the week and all day on the weekends. 

Stephens, however, noted that he felt less inclined to consume the grab-and-go options because of the amount of plastic packaging in which they are enclosed. And for some students, the diversity of the normal, sit-down food typically offered at Frank means that it remains an attractive dining choice on its own merits anyway. 

“You can go up as many times as you want to get food and there are actually more options than anywhere else,” Beavers said.

Beavers, who added that Frank was his favorite place to get food on campus, felt that the dining services issues were minor to begin with. He considered the University’s expansion of dining choices to be more than adequate as a solution. 

“I think [Colgate’s response] more than makes up for it because I never really had a problem in the first place,” Beavers said.