Campus News

Acorn cracking under new customer volume

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Anyone who’s stepped into the Acorn, Bethel’s own Subway-style sandwich shop, has probably noticed one not-so-little change from last year. “I think last Friday I was in line for a good 15-20 minutes before I got to the front,” said Jamie Rayburn, a math education major. “I have been in here and I’ve seen it wrapped around the benches,” said Seth Cole, mechanical engineering major. That’s right, since Sufficient Ground no longer accepts meal swipes, students are flocking to the Acorn for lunch and dinner. Which makes for some pretty unappetizing lines. “I get sick of the same things over and over again,” said Ellie Beilman, business administration major, when I asked her if she thinks the food is still worth the wait in line. “All I get here is the same sub again and again.” “On a scale of 1 to 12, I’d give it like a 4,” said Rayburn. Beilman mentioned the time crunch many students have for lunch. “I kind of wish they had more options for when you only have an hour time slot for your classes and all you have is the Acorn and the line is forever-long,” she said. Rayburn said that if she had other options for lunch, she’d take them. Not everyone feels this way, though. Cole said he’s willing to brave the line for the Acorn’s subs. “I know a lot of people say that they’re tired of the Acorn stuff,” he said, “but honestly I’ve found a way to provide enough variety that I’m still okay with eating it.” Cole even went on to have some more positive words on the lines. “The line isn’t even really that bad,” he said, “because it gives us a chance to group-up and talk with friends and stuff. Or make new friends, ‘cause you’re not going anywhere.” Cole did admit that the lines don’t bother him as much because he’s not usually under a time crunch. But he still thinks that the lines aren’t really a big problem. “The wait is never that long,” he said. “Lines still move relatively quickly.” I asked Cole whether his loyalty to the Acorn would change if there were more options for lunch. He said it would depend on what those options were. “I usually like to hit up only about one joint once per day,” he said. “With [Sufficient Grounds] out, that means I usually hit [the Dining Commons] once and the Acorn once. If I didn’t have to go to the DC, I would be very happy about that.” As for problems they’ve observed, both Rayburn and Cole said that the Acorn has had a problem with running out of food from the lunch rush. So what’s happening behind the counter? I talked with Ed Bernhard, senior director of Auxiliary Services and Physical Plant, about how the Acorn is coping with the lunchtime sub rush. “Well, I think you can only make so many sandwiches so fast,” he said. “It’s a small space, the Acorn and Sufficient Grounds aren’t really designed to handle volume per se, it’s more of a made-to-order-type environment. That creates some of the problem. We’re going to be somewhat limited as to what we can do there just because of the size of the space.” Bernhard said that this kind of congestion really isn’t all that unusual for the beginning of the school year. “It’s not unusual, on any campus, and I’ve been on several, at the beginning of the school year to see lines, as you have new students that come in as well that add to this, and then their patterns start to fall into place. If we see those same problems at the end of September, then we know it’s an on-going problem,” he said. Bernhard did mention that he hopes to get more made-to-order style stations in the Dining Commons to help meet the tastes of those who are currently flocking to the Acorn. Bernhard talked a little about the comments and feedback he’s gotten about the Acorn. “We hear about the lines and stuff,” he said. “And complaints are common when you’re in customer service. And I hesitate to call them complaints because I think it’s just people expressing their concerns. I don’t look at it as a complaint.” Bernhard went on to say that Auxiliary Services and Sodexo have been working to get a panel of students together to talk about meal options and how to better fit them to student tastes. “We try to solicit the input that we can,” he said, “but we would much prefer to work with students throughout the year to design a program that works best for everybody.” As for actual improvements to the Acorn space itself, Bernhard said there’s not enough space to do too much to help efficiency. “The focus of that area has always been making that sandwich when you go up there and order it,” he said. “You could offer premade options, but I don’t know that that’s why people go to the Acorn. I think they go there because they want something made as they order it, made fresh in front of them.” Bernhard said that this issue of premade options is something he feels could be addressed by a panel of students cooperating with Sodexo and Auxiliary Services. Bernard also said that there are ways for students to give feedback and file complaints. There is a board in the Dining Commons with cards for students to write comments on. Comments are not censored and they are posted on the bulletin board for Sodexo staff to read. But Bernhard drove home that he really thinks a student panel would be the best option for all. “Students are smart,” he said. “They understand running a business and running it efficiently. But what they also add to it is they are also the customer and sometimes what a customer really wants from you is less than what you think. Sometimes it’s a very simple thing. But it’s hard to get when you can’t get the input that you need.” So the Acorn’s cracking under the weight of student rush, but adjustments are being made. However, students can get involved, which may be just what the customer ordered.
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