Texas A&M’s University Dining has made several changes to on-campus dining this fall semester in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Fall semester meal plans officially started Aug. 8 in conjunction with the first move-in day of the semester. Since then, University Dining locations have undergone phased openings to accommodate students’ return, said Stephanie Denson, Chartwells district marketing manager.
Denson said the University Dining team has been working throughout the summer to change the seating layouts in all dining locations, implement enhanced cleaning measures and create socially distanced queuing options with floor decals spaced six feet apart.
“We’ve definitely looked at all angles for how we can have adequate social distance queuing so people feel safe while they’re in their lines,” Denson said. “When possible, we’re utilizing specific doors for entrance and specific doors for exit to help the flow of traffic.”
Denson said the doors at the entrance of the Sbisa Underground Food Court have been changed to automatic doors to eliminate another object campus members will need to touch. Additionally, Denson said half of the seating at each dining location has been completely removed to comply with Texas’ 50 percent maximum capacity requirements for restaurant operations.
In the event a dining location reaches 50 percent capacity, associates will direct campus members to available locations nearby, Denson said. The dining halls will also begin offering to-go meal options on Aug. 16 as an alternative to eating inside the venues.
According to University Dining’s guidelines, all associates, campus members and visitors must comply with the university’s rules on face coverings and social distancing.
“All guests must adhere to the A&M rule for face coverings when entering dining locations and should only remove once seated at a table consuming food/beverage,” the guidelines state. “Plexi Health Shields are placed at all registers to protect both guests and cashiers.”
All locations have hand sanitizer, which Denson said students are encouraged to use when they enter and exit dining locations.
In addition to new safety measures and dining options, Denson said University Dining has created the Retail Swipe option on campus. According to their website, students can now convert one meal swipe on their plan per day to a “retail swipe.” The retail swipes can purchase any items up to $7.50 on the menus at all on-campus dining locations.
“This feature replaces the Meal Trade program where Meal Swipes were traded for a set combo, side and drink,” according to the website. “This allows convenience, customization and variety.”
Denson said the decision to change the meal trade options to retail swipes was made before the COVID-19 pandemic in response to feedback University Dining received from campus members.
“Because we have over 65,000 students on campus, we have so many different types of budgets and appetites,” Denson said. “We try to find ways to make these meal plans work for different types of students and what they want.”
Denson said these new changes were decided with students’ best interests in mind in order to keep operating under safe conditions for everyone.
“We’re doing everything we can,” Denson said. “We’ll adjust as needed so we’re never stuck in what we’re doing.”