The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 47.0°F | A Few Clouds

ARA extends cafeteria hours

By Sabrina Kwon

In response to an overflow of students during prime dining hours, ARA has decided to change the operating hours of Networks and Lobdell Court during the Independent Activities Period, said Alan Leo, general manager of food services.

As of Sunday, Networks will be open from 11 am to 9 pm on weekdays, two hours later than its previous closing time. Lobdell will be open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 7 pm, an extension of five hours from the original closing time of 2 pm. On weekends, Networks will be the only campus dining facility in operation, from 8 am to 8 pm.

Flyers announcing the new ARA schedules were made and distributed to the dormitories yesterday.

These hours will be in effect for the next two weeks of IAP. However, a new schedule is planned for the last week of IAP, when the increased number of students on campus will require another change in scheduling. This last week alteration is a standard part of ARA's IAP format, Leo said.

Lobdell hours changed to provide "safety valve"

When Networks was the sole ARA dinner option, the restaurant-type dining facility was extremely overcrowded between 6 pm to 7 pm for the first few days of IAP. "Networks during the fall and spring terms serves between 1000 and 1100 students a day, but yesterday the total number of people Networks served was 860. So it isn't that Networks can't accommodate the number of students who return for IAP, the problem is that everybody comes at the same time," Leo said. He cited the students' "lack of a real schedule" and the traditional "dinner at six o'clock" notion as reasons for Networks' overcrowding.

After several managers observed the flow problem at Networks, ARA decided to extend the operating hours of Lobdell as a "safety valve" to ease overcrowding there, Leo said. Leo called the extra seven hours a day a service issue, not a financial decision, as the extra hours will increase operation costs by one-third.

Networks will experiment with two programs to ease the dinnertime flow problem. First, an early bird special discount of 10 percent will be offered to those who dine before 5:30. Networks also plans to create an entree option similar to the "quick turnover" entrees available at Lobdell, so that entree items will be ready to serve when ordered, in contrast to the less efficient, cooked-when-ordered procedure which is used for ordinary menu items. This entree addition may be a permanent change at Networks if it proves to be popular, Leo said.

Leo said ARA's volume during IAP drops to 25 percent of its level during the semester, and

he said this makes maintaining the normal schedule of services impossible. "I know that students want the normal schedule of the school year, but economics will not let us provide that, so what we've done is try to work out the best schedule we can. We may not meet every person's needs, but I think we cover the majority," Leo said.

Leo denied that the changes in the schedule were due to a flood of student complaints, but claimed that the changes were a response to the actual conditions of the facilities. "We're changing because [Networks] was too busy, not because we were deluged by complaints. And we're changing again, not because of complaints, but because of the positive feedback we've had from students about the extended hours of Lobdell," he said.

Students still displeased

Students still seem dissatisfied with dining options during IAP despite the newly revamped scheduling. "I think Lobdell should be open on weekends, although it is good that it will be open longer on the weekdays. Lobdell closing at 2 pm was just ridiculous," said Sandra K. Joung '95.

Frank C. Popp '94 agreed with Joung. "I think the new Lobdell hours are extremely beneficial . . . but they should be open even past 7 pm to help with the Networks scene," he said.

Networks was chosen as the prime dining facility this IAP because of its popularity with students, Leo said. Lobdell has been the primary facility during previous years, but there were complaints about the "half-closedness" of the food court, as only the grille and the deli were open.

Networks is cheaper to run than Lobdell and has a wider menu selection than its grille and deli of Lobdell, and therefore seemed the better choice, Leo said. "If students would rather eat at Lobdell than Networks during IAP, they should let us know how they feel." Leo welcomed any student feedback about how food service should be handled during IAP.