The Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee held its last meeting of the semester Monday night to reflect on the changes to dining and the experiences of different vendors.
To increase its popularity, the Penn Pavilion stationed a grill in front of the closed-off arches for students on the first day back from Thanksgiving Break. In addition to providing free food, the grill directed students to the Pavilion where free T-shirts, coupons and prizes were given out. Robert Coffey, director of dining services, said that the event was fairly successful.
Coffey also announced that students would be able to pass through the Flowers building next to the Bryan Center plaza, which will not be closed during West Union renovations.
“It’s going to remain open,” Coffey said. “It’s not supposed to be, but that was a last minute decision, from what I was told, that happened last Wednesday.”
Senior Chris Taylor, co-chair of DUSDAC, brought up the possibility of placing food carts near the Flowers building, though the committee believed that the amount of traffic received by that walkway would affect future discussions.
Additionally, Coffey mentioned that Au Bon Pain expressed concerns that its cart on the Plaza has caused a reduction in business at its Bryan Center location. Coffey said the cart, which was built by Duke Dining, may be replaced by the Greek Devil cart, which has been struggling somewhat with sales recently.
Committee members then shared updates on other vendors. Twinnie’s Café has been very successful this semester while Blue Express has seen less business. The Humble Pig food truck showed interest in placing a truck on Central Campus during lunchtimes, while Baguettaboutit wanted to start a rotation on East Campus.
Members questioned the amount of student traffic to the campuses during the day, as well how it would impact permanent vendors on campus. Both Twinnie’s and the Divinity School Refectory have been concerned about the presence of food trucks, and though Food Factory and Grace’s Café had strong business this semester, DUSDAC members said these vendors would not be pleased with food trucks coming to Central Campus.
Barbara Stokes, assistant director of dining services, voiced similar concerns with the placement of these food trucks on Central.
“Do we cannibalize some of that business when they are so successful right now?” Stokes said. “[These vendors] would not like a food truck over there.”
Taylor noted that lunch trucks have had varied success. Given the recent closings of major walkways, Taylor was also interested in seeing if this redirected student traffic would improve food truck business during lunch. But Taylor shared Stokes’ concerns about food trucks on Central.
“Our lunch trucks are doing well under 100 sales a day,” Taylor said. “We can think about it for the future, but it seems like a food truck on Central will not work right now.”
Other updates included Trinity Café expanding its menu with a hot sandwich program and Merchants-on-Points vendors expressing interest in holding a joint event in the Bryan Center for the next semester. Merchants-on-Points vendors also told committee members that they would like more students to follow them on social media.
Smith Warehouse Café has had trouble drawing students and staff, and Taylor encouraged members to get the café to expand its menu and have offerings similar to the Saladelia Cafe at the Sanford School of Public Policy.
Taylor said the committee will increase its contact with vendors and continue to work on its promotion of weekly dining deals for students in the coming semester. Overall, Taylor believed that DUSDAC has had a rather productive semester in spite of all the changes since the summer.
“There haven’t been too many rants on Fix My Campus that we haven’t been able to survive, so it looks like we’re doing well so far,” Taylor said.