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MIT Plans Overhaul Of Networks Cafe

By Dana Levine

MIT has drafted preliminary plans to overhaul Networks Cafe this summer, renovating the interior while drastically expanding and changing the menu and service style.

“Generally what we’re trying to do is to create an environment that is faster and more visual,” said Director of Dining Services Richard D Berlin, who engineered the plans. “Networks was originally designed as a sit-down restaurant. We want to maintain that unique restaurant image while speeding things up.”

Currently, a budget has not been set for the renovations, although Berlin believes that they will be done on a somewhat “limited budget.” Work should begin shortly after commencement, and will most likely continue through the summer.

A “grab-and-go” serving system

The major component of the renovation will include a modification of the food-serving system, including the installation of “grab-and-go” supermarket style cabinets containing a wide variety of prepared foods.

“This should get rid of the things that people like to make fun of,” said Undergraduate Association President Matthew L McGann ’00, referring to the infamous number calling system.

Rather than placing orders and waiting for a number to be called, students will be able to select a meal and have it cooked immediately. Under the new dining system, students will be able to assemble a typical meal consisting of a salad and an entree cooked to their specifications without having to wait for a long time.

Berlin believes that these changes should both speed up the service and improve the quality of food served at Networks.

The renovations to the physical building will include replacing the furniture and cabinets and updating much of the kitchen equipment. The Office of Dining Services has hired the architecture firm Perry and Radford to design the new Networks Cafe.

Students offer input to redesign

Although engineered by Berlin, the process has included a significant amount of input by members of the UA dining advisory committee. The committee plans to hold meetings between once and twice a month. At the meetings, Berlin will discuss his ideas for the renovations with students and receive feedback.

“A lot of times administrators go off and do their own thing without talking to students,” said McGann.

“The plans will really be in the preliminary stages for the next two months,” Berlin said.

Student suggestions have included ensuring that there are enough vegetarian options on the menu and running a contest to choose a new name for Networks. “We would like to remove the stigma that the name Networks carries,” McGann said.

The Networks renovation comes as one of the first steps in a massive overhaul to the campus dining system. Berlin noted that as breakfast is the meal with the smallest attendance, the new Networks could serve breakfast instead of Lobdell.

In addition, Networks may serve items from its breakfast menu all day long. “I think that a lot of people like to have breakfast late at night,” Berlin said.