Some dining locations have expanded hours from Jan. 25 to Feb. 7, the result of a partnership between Duke Student Government and Duke Dining.
During the two-week initiative, Sprout, Farmstead and Ginger and Soy are open until 9 p.m. instead of the usual 8 p.m. closing time, according to an email sent by DSG Senator Chase Barclay, a first-year, to Duke students who filled out an interest survey for the project.
“The amount of sales during these two weeks will determine if this project continues throughout the semester,” Barclay wrote in the email.
Senator Lana Gesinsky, a sophomore, said that extended dining hours have always been an “idea in the past, but is especially important now with COVID-19.”
During the fall semester, all vendors at the Brodhead Center closed at 8 p.m. at the latest, with several closing earlier. Senator Sophie Smith, a first-year, wrote in an email that it was sometimes difficult to make it to dinner by 8 p.m. between Zoom meetings for classes and clubs.
“On Wednesdays, I had class from 10:15 a.m. to 5 p.m., FOCUS IDC dinner from 6 to 7:30 p.m., and DSG from 7:30 to 9:00, sometimes running as late as 10 p.m. I always found myself hungry, rushing to get to McDonald’s, or even ordering delivery, which was often unreliable. The last thing we want is for students to worry about finding the time to eat, especially with certain courses and extracurriculars running past 8 p.m.,” Smith wrote.
Additionally, the inspiration for extending dining hours stems from the need to accommodate students of different cultures that promote eating at a later time, according to Gesinsky.
“We want to make sure that everyone can eat at a time that works for them,” Gesinsky said.
DSG’s efforts to extend dining hours began in the fall. Smith wrote in an email that DSG “submitted a formal request to Duke Dining in October and engaged in a preliminary discussion with Duke Dining and Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee (DUSDAC) on the feasibility of the project in November.”
“DSG provided feedback to Duke Dining that some student class schedules, during this pandemic, are ending at 8 p.m. and they would like to have a couple more options open in the Brodhead Center until 9 p.m.,” wrote Robert Coffey, executive director of Duke’s dining services, in an email.
Gesinsky explained that a central consideration of the project was finding a balance between student needs and the best interests of the Brodhead Center’s food service employees.
“Duke Dining employees are already working very hard, and we are cognizant of that,” Gesinsky said. “We don’t want to force anyone to stay open if it doesn’t make business sense for them. If we do leave something open, we want to make sure students will use it.”
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In December, DSG worked with the Duke Student Government Research Unit to develop and send out a Qualtrics survey to gauge student interest in a dining hours expansion program.
“There was a good response [to the Qualtrics survey] over break with more responses than initially anticipated,” Gesinsky said.
One part of the survey asked students to select the locations where they would prefer to extend hours.
“The top 3 venues rated by undergraduate students were, in order, Il Forno/Sazon, Ginger + Soy/Gyotaku, and Farmstead/Sprout,” Barclay wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
Duke Dining made the final choice of where to extend hours, with the input of the survey responses.
“DSG senators on the Extended Dining Hours team were not directly involved with communicating with operators and individual restaurants, but communicated solely with Duke Dining,” Barclay wrote.
During the pilot period, Duke Dining will analyze the traffic and sales from the venues with extended hours before making any other decisions upon potentially extending hours for the rest of the semester as well as choosing other venues to extend hours for.
“Student use of extended hours [will fuel] the success and continuation of the project,” Smith wrote.
Coffey added that Duke Dining and its team members “always serve to serve and support the Duke community the best that we can, and hope the pilot program is successful and that there is enough support for the later closing times.”
Amy Guan is a Pratt sophomore and an associate news editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.