The members of Drexel University’s Drexel Campus Dining approach their responsibility to students with one key ingredient — seriousness.
They recognize that all students who live on campus during their first year will be dining with them, every day.
“Just like you would want at home, we want there to be variety,” said Don Liberati, assistant vice president for Campus Services, of their approach to the menu and offerings overall. “We want [students] to be able to go and select what makes sense for them. We work to provide as many options as possible.”
But when you’re responsible for feeding thousands of people three meals a day (at least!), seven days a week, it may be hard to make sure the mission to provide healthy, varied, delicious cuisine and economical, multi-dimensional dining plans is recognized. After all, people tend to get stuck in their ways — as well as their mindset — when it comes to eating!
In order to help students become aware of and utilize all of the dining options available to them, here are five facts about Drexel Campus Dining that some students may not be aware of.
Drexel Campus Dining offers variety.
Students can feel at home when stopping by Drexel’s main dining location — the Handschumacher Dining Center (Hans) — which aims to give students a relaxed, social, all-you-care-to-eat dining experience that also offers convenience and variance.
“The menu changes daily, and it is a seasonal menu,” said Kristina Coble, resident district manager for Aramark, which has been Drexel’s food service provider since 2017.
Additionally, both the Hans and retail/residential locations like the Urban Eatery support weekly or monthly offers which break up the monotony of what could easily be fixed menus in these locations. In the Hans, there are weekly crepe stations, bakery showcases and “sustainable fish Friday,” whereas at Urban Eatery, each station features a signature monthly, limited-time offer.
"We make sure that we have on-trend, innovative items that are hip to the market that folks want to eat,” Coble said.
Drexel Campus Dining also aims to be innovative in terms of when and how they bring service to students. This term, for instance, the team responded to student feedback by making weekend brunch hours at the Hans longer and later, shifting to 10 a.m.–4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Earlier this year, the team also introduced kiosk ordering to stations in Urban Eatery, Ignite and U.C. Veg. They plan to expand this offering after making upgrades this summer.
“That has been extremely popular,” Coble said. “Students can put their own order in and customize their meals. They really seem to be enjoying that.”
Drexel Campus Dining supports special offerings.
Innovation and monotony-breaking are not the only goals of the Drexel Campus Dining team. They also aim to go above and beyond to meet the needs of the University’s diverse, ever-changing student population.
“We're trying to make sure that the program supports every student coming to Drexel,” Liberati said.
A few ways that Drexel Campus Dining surpasses what might typically be expected include:
Restaurant rotations and Study at Urban Eatery — Located at Street Fare, restaurant rotations bring weekly rotating menus developed by Aramark with a specific location or style of cooking in mind. Past concepts have included tacos, Indian food and Mediterranean street food.
Also at Urban Eatery, hours were extended until 12 a.m. (midnight) during finals week each term in order to give students a comfortable place to fuel up and study.
“Last year we had gotten the feedback that during finals week, it's really hard to find places to study because everyone's trying to find that corner of the coolest building,” said Amanda Noll, director of brand engagement and marketing for Campus Services.
Complimentary coffee and hot tea is served, late night menus are available at several stations and students with dining plans are provided an additional meal swipe to partake in these offerings.
Happy Hours and Farm Stand at Northside Dining Terrace — Drexel Campus Dining partners with The Common Market to host a farm stand every other Wednesday, where students can use meal swipes or Dining Dollars to purchase fresh, local produce and prepared goods.
In addition, the stations at Northside Dining Terrace — which include Subway, Chick-fil-A and sushi — host a monthly happy hour where students can get an entrée, a side and a bottle of water in exchange for a meal swipe, at locations that do not usually accept meal swipes.
“We really do change up the offerings a lot,” Liberati said.
Drexel Campus Dining caters to personal preferences and needs.
In addition to meeting the diverse needs of the Drexel student body, the Campus Dining team also focuses on providing options to fit dietary, religious and convenience needs.
Vegan/Vegetarian — In addition to these options being available at the Hans, U.C. Veg was also introduced to Urban Eatery to provide more plant-based, grab-and-go options. This station’s menu changes weekly to showcase fresh, seasonal produce. This term, the menu was created in partnership with Drexel Food Lab within the Center for Food & Hospitality Management, and includes a buffalo cauliflower wrap (Feb. 18–March 3), a roasted beet and goat cheese sandwich (March 4–17) and a Korean mushroom sandwich (March 18–25).
“We’re really proud of that partnership between Aramark and the Drexel Food Lab,” Liberati said.
Kosher/Halal — Students following these religion-based food guidelines always have options on campus. There is a separate Halal station at the Hans, and students keeping Kosher may visit The Café at the Perelman Center for Jewish Life for a selection of kosher sandwiches, wraps, paninis, salads and desserts provided under the supervision of Keystone-K Community Kashrus.
Gluten-free — Students seeking gluten-free items can find muffins, bagels and bread in the designated pantry area at the Hans, as well as gluten-free cereal, snacks and chips.
On-the-go — It’s also crucial for busy Drexel students to keep in mind that all dining options support takeout service, including main dining centers locations like the Hans.
“I think that's really important for students to know about take-out,” Liberati said. “Each place has a good mix between ‘I can sit down and have my meal’ or ‘I can go grab a few things and go because I'm on the run.’”
Finally, all students should be aware that Aramark supplies a full-time, on-campus dietician to sit down with students and help navigate healthy, on-campus eating strategies — whether they need help with specific needs, allergies or just general nutritional advice, including scheduling time to eat in their busy schedule.
“It's important for people know that there are resources here to help them eat well, eat healthy and maximize the value of their dining plans,” Liberati said.
The Drexel Campus Dining plans are flexible.
Dining plan flexibility is another area where the Drexel Campus Dining team has been working through student feedback over the last year in order to make swipes go further than they ever have before.
First, they eliminated the restrictions on timing throughout the day when swipes can be used.
“That has a been a really big win and significantly increased the flexibility of our plans,” Liberati said.
Then they set their sights on adding guest meals to dining plans in response to student feedback. These are available on both plans for first-year students.
“We want to make access to great food easy for our students,” Coble said. “Changing these restrictions allows for greater flexibility for balancing a hectic schedule and eating right.”
All in all, the team would also note that it might be a myth that all dining options close early. However, this is definitely not the case. Though the Hans closes at 8 p.m. on weeknights, there are options at Urban Eatery and Northside Dining Terrace open as late as 10 or 11 p.m. Students can filter dining locations by what’s open/closed on Drexel Campus Dining’s website.
“We shift our hours to the residential campus where students live as it gets later at night, so it’s more convenient and closer to them,” Liberati said.
Communication with Drexel Campus Dining is open.
For students with feedback on hours or anything else related to Drexel Campus Dining, the line of communication with the Drexel Campus Dining team is always open.
“We’re consistently talking to students and we try to take all that feedback and implement it,” Liberati said. “Some of it are things that we can do relatively easily.”
A good example of that, he said, is the addition of pizza at the Hans. All it took was some discussion during one of the student advisory panel meetings, which consists of two representatives from each residence hall, and other student volunteers. The dining team researched, purchased and installed all necessary equipment over winter break so that pizza could be served this term. Another crowd pleaser that came from the panel last year was the addition of mozzarella sticks at the Ignite station in Urban Eatery.
“I think we added those within a couple of weeks, and it was instantly a favorite. We were going through almost 30 cases a day when we first introduced those,” Liberati said. “So, sometimes the things that people want can be really kind of straightforward and simple.”
Students can follow the weekly Monday newsletters from Drexel Campus Dining for updates, which is emailed out to all students registered for a dining plan. There are a variety of ways to submit feedback to the team, which will be promptly reviewed by representatives from either Drexel Campus Dining or Aramark. The team also implemented parent chats in the fall term to address questions and feedback from parents and families.
At the end of the day, Liberati said the goal of his team is simple.
“Our goal is to help everyone maximize the plan,” he said. “We want them to get the maximum value out of it as they go through the year. So, we try and provide as much information to students as possible.”
To get in touch with Drexel Campus Dining, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215.895.6095, Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.