Cougareat still working out the kinks

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    By KATELYN HANDY SHRIBER

    Students that ate at the newly remodeled Cougareat Tuesday were met with long lines at each kiosk to pick up and pay for their food.

    Dean A. Wright, director of dining services, called Tuesday “a day of trial” and said that the long lines were not expected.

    “The Cougareat did not live up to our own expectations. We do not want our customers to walk away frustrated; this is not acceptable to us,” Wright said.

    Wright has been pleased with the response of the campus community coming to dine at the Cougareat. He also hoped that customers realized that Tuesday was the first day for the Cougareat to operate when campus is at full-capacity.

    Wright cited two reasons for the long lines at every kiosk during lunch. The first reason is that the Cougareat is short 13 employees during lunch.

    The lunch shift is always the last to fill because of students’ schedules, Wright said.

    Wright said they are aggressively recruiting and hiring student employees to remedy the problem.

    Because there were not enough employees, Wright said they thought of not opening all kiosks. But some national-chain kiosks, like Taco Bell, cannot have untrained employees work there.

    “We cannot take a non-trained employee and tell them to start making tacos,” Wright said.

    Another reason for the long lines is the way the kiosks are set up. The Cougareat was redesigned like a food court in shopping centers and malls. Each kiosk has its own cash register as opposed to the more traditional collegiate cafeteria where food is picked up and then paid for at a centralized location.

    Wright said that an advantage of the Cougareat design is that the food is customized: it is made fresh for each student rather then sitting under a heat lamp until it is picked up.

    “We have advanced to a full, quick-service restaurant rather than a kiosk where you grab something (already made) and take it,” Wright said.

    The new Cougareat has no “grab-and-go” or “hot hold” venues — such as the slots Taco Bell had at Cougareat II where students could grab a burrito that had already been made. Cougar Express, across form the Taco Bell, does have a few grab-and-go items.

    Wright said that they may look at evaluating and incorporating grab-and-go meals to make the lines go faster. But Wright, who is also a licensed dietician, stressed the importance of making sure the food is “hot off the grill.”

    “We want to make sure the quality of food is the best,” Wright said.

    Another potential problem was seating. Wright said that seating capacity was met very early Tuesday, so additional seating was set up in the Terrace (the large room north of the Cougareat).

    Wright said that there will be additional seating each day in the Terrace from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

    There will also be additional employees stationed in the dining room during lunch to clean up the area.

    Wright’s main priority is to find a solution for the long lines.

    “We have already recognized the challenge (of the long lines) and are up to meeting that,” Wright said.

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