All-you-can-eat dining halls are a good idea in theory but not in practice.
IU transformed Forest Eatery and McNutt Eatery into all-you-can-eat dining halls this year. The two dining halls stopped serving a wide variety of food and instead prepare large amounts to feed more students faster. Students only have to pay once with a swipe and can eat as much food as they want before they leave.
This works well for some students, but for students with dietary restrictions, the dining halls feel more like all-you-can’t eat.
Whether students want a quick bite between classes or don’t have the patience to wait in long lines, some students said they choose to get food at the buffet-style options because they are faster than placing an order in a traditional dining hall. Wait times to get food can stretch upwards of three hours at some locations on campus.
“I don’t order food if the wait is longer than 40 minutes because I've been on Grubhub and there have been two hour waits,” IU junior Munthira Raju said.
IU Director of Residential Dining Ken Field said one of the main causes of long wait times is students ordering all at the same time.
It seems difficult for the dining hall staff to keep up with demand. When I went to McNutt Eatery I was overwhelmed by the number of students there, and some of the restaurants were closed, with only two or three people working.
IU junior Callie Johnson said not many students want to work in IU dining halls because other businesses in Bloomington offer higher wages.
“They could fix all of this if they paid people the $15 an hour they promised a few years ago,” Johnson said. “$10.40 an hour isn’t a competitive wage so no one wants to work.”
Students who are vegetarian or vegan have had difficulty finding adequate meals in dining halls.
“The buffet style would be fine if there were more options, but on Grubhub, there is no option for customization for anything, so it's just whatever they give you,” Raju said. “A lot of my friends are vegetarian and there are some days where there are no vegetarian options.”
Personally, I don’t eat at the buffet-style dining halls often enough for the limited choices to bother me. But it may be annoying for some students who do live on campus having to either eat the same few things every day or deal with long wait times.
Buffet-style dining halls have a limited number of choices, no to-go boxes and few options for students with dietary restrictions. They seemed like a good idea to cope with the shortage of dining hall employees, but they’ve just created new problems for students.
Olivia Franklin (she/her) is a junior studying journalism with a minor in political science. She is a member of the swim club at IU and the Women in Media organization.