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WEL diner reopens amid growing pains

Rick's Diner in the West-Edens Link returned to almost full service Monday after a hectic 12 hours late Sunday night when a dearth of food caused the four-day-old eatery to turn away customers.

"We ran out of food last night and had a delivery that was late this morning, so breakfast had a very limited menu," general manager Tony Strickland said Monday.

Only waffles, biscuit sandwiches, oatmeal and several other items were offered, although long lines were back by dinner as operations returned to near normal.

Both Strickland and Director of Dining Services Jim Wulforst blamed the temporary shutdown on better than expected business, although Strickland added that inadequate refrigeration also contributed to the diner's troubles.

"They just had a bang-up, unbelievable three days," Wulforst said. "There aren't enough refrigerators in the world that could have helped this weekend."

Wulforst added that Rick's had lines out the door at 3:30 in the morning Saturday and attributed the diner's success to its novelty.

"It's the newest thing on campus," he said. "I always tell new [eateries] to be prepared. They never realize what I mean by that. They never realize how busy it can be."

Both Strickland and Wulforst said the opening of another large walk-in refrigerator later this week should help alleviate storage concerns.

The diner received its certificate of operation only Aug. 16, and so major air conditioning duct work around the large refrigerator has yet to be completed. Wulforst noted that the space in the bottom floors of the McClendon Tower was originally intended for a small establishment that would do most of its food preparation at another location on campus. He said the choice of Rick's, which does all of its cooking on site, required a change in plans and pushed back installation of the refrigerator.

Wulforst said space may always be a concern for the eatery, and that he is unsure whether the problems will force the diner to close again. But he added that the largest issues should be resolved within a week.

Strickland said some items on the menu, like ice cream, are still unavailable because of a lack of freezer space.

Senior James Roy said the diner seemed to have put its shaky start Monday morning behind it, bringing back more and more food on the menu throughout the day.

"I tried to order an omelet two or three times earlier today," Roy said. "They had the eggs but they didn't have the meat and everything else. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich and it was really good, but they had no pickles."

Roy finally had his omelet Monday night for dinner, and friends were served pickles with their meals.

"They've made a lot of progress since they opened Thursday," senior Seth Weiner said.

"They seem to be learning from mistakes. They're writing names on the tickets now and the line is moving a lot faster."

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