New and welcome changes at Downer

Kayla Wilson

Downer has undergone several changes this year, the most notable of these being the implementation of continuous dining and the extension of serving hours by half an hour.
The brainchild of Patrick Niles, Director of Dining Services, this new policy means that Monday through Thursday, Downer is open from 7:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., and from 7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Weekend hours will remain unchanged.
The new hours are largely due to this year’s new class schedule, which allows students to take classes throughout that day, potentially causing them to miss lunch. Additionally, classes end later than in previous years, extending students’ workdays and pushing back music rehearsals and athletic practices.
Changing the hours at Downer will make eating more convenient for students, which is exactly what Niles aims to do. When asked why he instituted the change he replied, “We could do it and we felt like we needed to. We are trying to provide the best service possible to students.”
Conservatory students agree that this new policy will make life easier for them. Sophomore Stephen Flynn said, “It will benefit me [from needing] to rush to dinner before rehearsal because I hate eating early. Now I’ll be able to eat after rehearsal, which is more civilized.”
Even students outside of athletics and the conservatory are singing the praises of continuous dining. Sophomore Alex Bunke feels that “the new continuous dining feature really raises the convenience bar to a level that LU students have not see since .well, ever.” Bunke hopes that continuous dining will be a permanent change.
Niles, who is beginning his second year in his position, has implemented many other changes over the summer. Acknowledging that dining services at Lawrence have had a bad reputation in the past, he hopes that these modifications will help to turn that around.
For starters, there will be more vegetarian choices, with a vegetarian entre offered at Lucinda’s during all meal times.
In addition, a new menu management system has been purchased, which will increase efficiency and profitability. This new system will eventually allow dining services to post nutritional information about all food items on their website.
One other change is the hiring of a sous chef, which will allow the head chef to better oversee purchasing. The hope is that the head chef’s food expertise will translate to better food for students.
Dining services is also currently in the midst of negotiating an exclusive pouring rights contract. This contract will result in, among other things, potential financial contributions and other benefits for the university from whichever distributor wins the bid.
While not new, it is worth noting that dining services will continue to publish a newsletter each term. “[It] lets students know we are listening to them and trying to give them what they want,” said Niles. Also in this spirit, comment cards will continue to be available for students. These have become an invaluable resource for Niles and his staff. Much of this year’s menu is derived from last year’s responses.
The overwhelming feeling of wanting to please students and be receptive to their wants and needs can be summed up in Niles words: “This is your dining service, not mine.