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New cafeteria widely praised although long lines still a concern

Menlo's new cafeteria has provided many benefits, although the long lines have been frustrating for some students. Staff photo by Sam Fortenbaugh.

By Ty Corley and Sam Fortenbaugh

After a year of heavy construction, Menlo unveiled its brand new cafeteria for the beginning of school. The unveiling of the new cafeteria has brought a host of positive reviews from students and staff about the new food and venue. However, concerns have risen about the long lines and efficiency.

The primary change was the introduction of a new food provider, Flik. The cafeteria is also part of the new “Menlo Commons,” bringing it closer to the heart of campus.
Flik supplies a diverse menu full of food options that have received positive reviews across the board. There are three different options: the main entree, pizza, and a salad/sandwich bar. “Overall, the food is great. I really like how many options there are,” junior Conor McCusker said.

Flik prides themselves on the freshness of their food and claim almost everything is made in house. “We like their approach to food,” Dean of Students Tony Lapolla said. “Most everything is made from scratch.”

The new options offer a refreshing and unique taste from a variety of members of the Menlo Community. “I’m enjoying the new flavors that we are experiencing everyday,” English teacher Cara Plamondon said.

The new drinks have also been a hit in the cafeteria. “I especially enjoy the POG [passionfruit orange guava drink],” senior Nicole Priestley said.

The new cookies are also being praised by staff. “[The cookies] literally melted in my mouth. They were far better than what we’ve had for previous years,” dance teacher Jan Chandler said.

Another aspect of the cafeteria that has received high praise is the seating. “I really like the new seating arrangements because it gives the student body a variety of choices to sit and it's a lot more inclusive and open” junior Taylor King said. The booths as well as the outside area are new additions that have been commended heavily. “I like how the outside tables are bigger than before,” senior Brody LaPorte said. “The booths are also really nice,” senior Brody LaPorte said.

The overall vibe in the cafeteria seems to have improved according to some teachers. “I am digging the chairs; it is great to have something to lean back into. The light of our new cafeteria also improves the overall mood and experience,” Plamondon said.

There is reason for more excitement as many new innovations may be coming to the cafeteria in the near future. “Some innovations are coming, a lot to do with the sweet side of things,” Head Chef Justin Bailey said. He added that milk machines and a smoothie machine should be in the cafeteria sometime soon.

It takes a lot of hard work to make all this delicious food. “I haven't taken a day off in 30 days,” Bailey said. “I was here on Sunday until 8 o'clock. I’ve been working 17 hours a day 28 days in a row now.”

While initial reactions about the food remain extremely positive, there are concerns about the long lines. “The lines are very long and since the cafeteria is so close, everyone gets there at once,” sophomore Henry Knoll said. With the old cafeteria, students had to walk to the edge of the college campus by Wunderlich field. That helped scatter the amount of students who would enter the cafeteria, therefore alleviating the long lines. Currently there are lines for the pizza, entree and deli bar. While the line for the sandwich and salads are usually light, the entree line is frequently congested.

The Flik employes are just getting used to our preferences and have been surprised by our pizza demands. Bailey said he found a new pizza dough supplier, which he hopes will be able to get bigger crusts from and allow the chefs to focus more on serving the food rather than preparing the food resulting in faster lines. “The larger pizzas will make pieces bigger and the line go by twice as fast,” Bailey said.

The administration is consistently seeking ways to improve the cafeteria. “We are constantly refining things in this process,” Lapolla said. Lapolla, who has a standing meeting after school everyday with cafeteria executives to discuss how the day went, stated that Flik has been very receptive to feedback. “There will be times when we ask for student’s feedback in order to try and make the experience good for everyone,” Lapolla said.

One of the main focuses has been trying to find a way to cut down the lines. Lapolla has already expressed that there has been progress in decreasing the amount of time people spend in line. Moving the pizza line to other side of the cafeteria, for instance, was put in place to minimize congestion. Lapolla also mentioned plans to institute a grab and go section where food could be prepared for students with meetings during lunch.

While Lapolla did not reveal the details of some of the other upcoming surprise innovations, he assured us that they will be creative and fun. The operation of the new cafeteria remains an ongoing process as both Flik executives as well as the Menlo community continue to experience new things everyday.

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