Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What’s up with Doc’s Diner?

Sodexo staff answers questions regarding student concerns about extended lines and limited food choices

I eat at Doc’s Diner every day.
I eat there on weekdays. I eat there on weekends. I eat there when I want a meal, and I eat there when I just want a snack. Why do I do this?
Convenience.

I live on East 53, and as is the case for the majority of east campus students, Doc’s is the closest and most convenient location to get food. When schoolwork digs its nasty claws in, and time is in short supply, there is not much that matters more to college students than convenience. Where is the nearest place that takes swipes and gives me food? That is the most important question to college students when our stomachs start to grumble.

Delicious? — Doc’s works to make improvements based on student feedback. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

Delicious? — Doc’s works to make improvements based on student feedback. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

But with the recent changes, is eating at Doc’s worth it? Many of my fellow students complain of a lackluster menu, long lines and an even longer wait to get food once it has been ordered. I must admit that I have joined in the chorus of protests from time to time.

As a regular Doc’s customer, I see and experience these problems often. I have waited more than an hour for a breakfast sandwich on multiple occasions. A sandwich that consists of an egg, some fried ham, a bit of cheese and two sides of a bun — something that most would agree is a pretty simple thing to make.

I admit that I set out to write something negative here. I wanted to voice my complaints in a place where they would be heard and rise up with my fellow students to demand better service. Yet, what I discovered was that my complaints were uneducated, and my anger unfounded.

I had been frustrated that there did not seem to be many healthy options. There are burgers, pizza, pancakes and salads. Only one of those categories falls on the healthy side of the food spectrum, while the rest pretty much end up being as healthy as fast food. And while salads are a nice, healthy option, it would be better to have something to straddle the line between super-healthy and unhealthy. Where is the pasta? The club sandwiches?

It seemed to me that Sodexo was out of touch with the student body and did not understand the pressing demand for quick food. They did not seem to get that after they switched Doc’s from a sit-down restaurant to an order-and-go swipe station, its popularity would rise exponentially.

I was wrong.

Speaking extensively with Cheryl Wolff, Sodexo’s general manager at Liberty, it became clear to me that Sodexo has been working hard to combat these exact issues that many — including myself — believed them to be out of touch with.

“The reason we did change was student feedback,” Wolff said. “The students love the convenience of Doc’s, but the lines were so long.”

Wolff explained how Doc’s switched its orientation specifically based off students’ complaints about the long lines to get in, be seated, order, receive the food, be given the check and pay. Sodexo has tried to get more food out quickly by making Doc’s an order-and-go place. Wolff said they even looked at how students love the self-service touch-screens at Sheetz, and put those up in Doc’s to increase efficiency.

As far as the menu goes, Wolff said the simpler it is, the faster the food can come out. Creating a menu with food that is more strenuous to cook would just increase wait times. The argument for more diverse food backfires when you realize that it gets in the way of the number one goal: Convenience and quickness.

“We did take a lot of consideration for health on what’s in there,” Wolff said. “I do think there needs to be some improvements. Definitely the menu will always be tinkered with … we also want to keep it fresh. We want to look at what the students want.”

I suggested to Wolff that filling the kitchen with more cooks might help to prepare food faster, to which she explained to me what I believe to be the real problem with Doc’s: the facility is too small.

Wolff said she could throw more cooks in the kitchen, but in an atmosphere where people are constantly moving and working, it would create safety concerns.

Most of the issues that myself and other students have with Doc’s are justifiable after doing a little research on why it is the way it is. But that does not necessarily mean that Doc’s is perfect.

The kitchen is too small, and Wolff told me that record numbers of students are eating at Doc’s. For many students, it is taking the place of a dining hall. Because of this, it seems clear that Doc’s needs a bigger change than just the style of dining it incorporates.

Doc’s needs a complete physical renovation to make both the kitchen facilities and seating capabilities sufficient for a much larger group of people.

A renovation would not even eliminate a detrimental amount of parking spots for the commuters that park in that zone. Even if the size of Doc’s was only doubled, it would allow more food to be made at once and more students to be served, especially during the busiest hours. Other parking arrangements, such as the parking garage next to Reber Thomas that is currently being constructed, would provide ample wiggle room for misplaced spots in the Doc’s lot.

The bottom line is, even though it is popular because it is the most convenient place for a lot of Campus East students to eat, Doc’s still has good food. If the food was bad, students would not flock back in such numbers.

But the current model is not working smoothly. Not for the students, and not for the workers. Doc’s employee John Stockwell explained that when two order tickets are popping out in the kitchen every minute, it creates a high stress environment.

It is important to remember, though, that Sodexo is listening to feedback and will make changes based off of it.

Fill out the extensive Sodexo survey that can be found on the splash page, and give feedback on the dining options at libertydining.com. If you want change, use your voice.

1 Comment

  1. This is so true. For close to 13,000 students (plus families coming to visit), the waiting area is teeny tiny (especially when it’s freezing outside). The restaurant needs to be BIGGER! I love the idea, but it’s lacking in so many areas.

    Comment by I Totally Agree — December 2, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

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