After a summer of renovations, USC’s newly refurbished and restocked cafeterias opened to the public this fall to mixed reviews.
Whereas most students started off the year generally pleased with the newly revamped and polished cafeterias (particularly EVK Restaurant and Grill, which unveiled a fancy Mongolian grill and additional serving stations), their opinions these days vary. Though some students said they are perfectly content with their dining experience, others complained about everything from a lack of food options to sanitation issues.
“After hearing that the cafeterias were getting renovated before we got to school, I was really excited to eat there,” said Dylan Abrams, a freshman majoring in psychology. “It was pretty good the first week, and then it deteriorated. What happened to the fancy tablecloths and the gourmet food? Now I’m just disappointed.”
Those who are happy with the USC cafeterias, however, offer multiple complimentary statements about them.
“I love eating [at EVK and Parkside],” said Jason Aftalion, a freshman studying business administration. “I think they have a lot to offer.”
Deborah Halimi, a freshman majoring in business administration, added: “The outdoor grill [at EVK] is fantastic. I love the turkey burgers and grilled chicken.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, those who are dissatisfied with their dining experience insist that they are not presented with quite enough variety.
“I wish we had more choices. The same, unappealing dishes get repeated every few days,” Abrams said. “I’ve started to just eat cereal for dinner because I don’t want to eat the same thing every day.”
Additional complaints from those who are unhappy include slow restocking at EVK; food often runs out during busy dining hours, leaving students with even fewer meal choices. This might lead to a lot of frustration, especially for those who intend to fit in a quick meal before classes and have to wait long periods of time for the food to be restocked.
But one of the more prevalent complaints students have revolves around unclean dishes; many students have started to notice food remnants and dried sauces stuck to the plates they pick up in line. Not only do some students find this inconvenient, they are also somewhat dismayed by the cafeteria’s lack of cleanliness: People are constantly thumbing through the stacked dishes trying to find a clean plate, which doesn’t make for the most appetizing meal.
“It’s really off-putting to come in and find pieces of food still stuck to the plates,” said Dylan Abrams, a freshman majoring in psychology.
But these issues are not unique to EVK. The recently converted Café 84 and Parkside Restaurant have also have not been quite up to par, according to some students.
“After hearing that Parkside was the superior option, I went there with high hopes,” said Asher Levy, a freshman majoring in philosophy, politics and law. “I left with a stomach ache after downing sopping, saccharine Chinese noodles and pesto pasta so drenched in [cream].”
Such complaints come as a surprise to Kris Klinger, Director of USC Hospitality.
“The residential team worked extremely hard this summer preparing the venues for the students,” Klinger said. “Along with the updated new spaces, we introduced brand new menus and recipes.”
Additionally, Klinger states that USC Hospitality has been working with Michelle Dong, the Vice President of Advocacy for the University Residential Student Community, on garnering student feedback and responses, most of which have been positive. Most feedback includes responses that students are happy with the food, that staying open until 10 p.m. is appreciated and works well for all and that people would like to see Café 84 open during the weekend. Other suggestions involve allowing students to take food outside of the dining hall and offering more of a variety of food options.
Klinger and the rest of the hospitality team, however, are cognizant of the fact that some students are still unhappy and have made a concerted effort to fix that.
“We have asked our dietitian, Lindsey Pine, to set up a new survey in EVK, Café 84 and Parkside Restaurant starting next week in order to solicit more feedback,” he said. “We are also working on setting up our first recipes committee meeting of the year. Now that we have enough students interested we will be able to start next month. We traditionally meet once a month.”
These are not the only steps USC Hospitality is taking to improve things for student diners. A greater effort is being made to work specifically with the cafeteria chefs, as well.
“Our executive Chef Eric Ernest is working with our chefs on quality, recipes and updating our menus,” Klinger said. “We will launch new menus in the spring and take all of the feedback we are getting into consideration and incorporate all the suggestions we can.”
In order to help USC Hospitality enhance the on-campus dining experience, students are encouraged to utilize the comment card boxes in the dorms set up by the University Residential Student Community or to reach out to Student Government or USC Hospitality representatives.
“We understand there are improvements we can make and are open to any suggestions, comments and feedback,” Klinger said.