Penn Pavilion trims hours, food trucks to make lunch time appearance
When students return from Fall Break, changes to Duke Dining will take effect.
Penn Pavilion will be cutting most of its weekend service, but there will be additional food trucks in Telecom Circle—the cul-de-sac between Perkins Library and the Fitzpatrick Center—during weekday lunch hours.
“The Great Hall was not open for weekends for the last several years, however, we decided to try and pilot expanded hours from the Great Hall to include weekends, but the Pavilion has been way under utilized from Friday dinner through Sunday brunch,” Robert Coffey, director of dining services wrote in an email Tuesday.
Beginning Friday, the Pavilion will close every Friday at 2:30 p.m. and reopen each Sunday at 4 p.m.—with no meals in between, according to a press release from Duke Dining.
Coffey said that the decision to cut back hours because of low attendance was made in conjunction with Duke Student Government and the Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee.
“We would have liked for them to stay open longer because we are promoting as much variety across campus as possible,” said DUSDAC co-chair Chris Taylor, a senior.
The Pavilion, however, was losing so much money that it was not worth keeping it open during the weekend, Taylor added.
“When you don’t get enough traffic it is hard to support cafeteria-style dining,” he said.
Taylor noted that the large quantities of food that had to be prepared ahead of time.
“The Penn Pavilllion wasn’t getting the weekend business it needed to sustain weekend hours, and it needed to be shut down,” said sophomore Lavanya Sunder, DSG vice president for services. “It’s unfortunate, but it makes business sense.”
Although the cut will provide students fewer options for on-campus meals during the weekend, Coffey noted that he was not concerned.
“Students have 19 on-campus locations open for weekend service, which is similar to last year,” he wrote. “Pavilion is open for Sunday dinner, as students told us this was the most important meal to be open over the weekend.”
The decrease in weekend options, however, was a “definite concern” for DUSDAC members, Taylor said.
Food trucks will be available for lunch during the week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.—rotating between Baguettaboutit, Captain Ponchos, Fosters on the Fly and Humble Pig—Coffey said. He added that both DSG and DUSDAC worked extensively with the Office of Parking and Transportation to agree that Telecom Circle was the best location for the lunch trucks.
“The process that brought the afternoon food trucks here was long and arduous,” Sunder said. “There was a big demand on the Fix My Campus page for afternoon food trucks.”
She added that the Fix My Campus program regularly receives “tons” of complaints and requests about dining on campus.
DUSDAC and Duke Dining have looked into adding food truck service on the weekends, Taylor said. But because many truck owners work at events on the weekends, there has been little interest.
The changes to dining options follow the closure of the West Union building and the venues within.
“I would like to remind customers that we did start the planning for the West Union closure two years ago with the renovations and program enhancements,” Coffey said.
He added that there have been many provisions taken to ensure students have an optimal dining experience at Duke—including the Au Bon Pain cart on the Bryan Center Plaza, the expansion of the Divinity Refectory hours to include dinner and opening the Food Factory for breakfast.
“I think students should really understand that closing the Penn Pavilion on the weekend wasn’t something that Dining wanted to do,” Sunder said. “Budgetary constraints and poor demand just made it happen.”