As Elon Dining, formerly branded as Aramark, moves forward, it has a chance to redesign Elon University’s dining halls in a way that is much more welcoming. We’re talking cafeteria tables. We’d like to see more of them.
With focus groups and conversations underway on how to best renovate McEwen Dining Hall, Elon Dining is focusing on the specifics — as it should. Especially to younger students, the nit-picky matters, and the devil is in the details when it comes to not only dining hall food, but also design and function.
It seems silly to suggest that a series of 16-person cafeteria tables can seriously change campus climate, or anything at all, really. But the smallest action can have the largest ripple effect on a campus of slightly more than 6,000 students.
A staple of high schools everywhere, cafeteria tables force perfect strangers to sit next to each other. And that, in its own way, allows conversation to happen. It chips away at a campus climate in which students only eat with people they know — or eat alone.
Now, dining halls at Elon are tailored to the small group of friends or to the individual grabbing a quick bite. There’s nothing wrong with that. It works. But if Elon Dining — led by the sweeping ambition of manager Pulkit Vigg — is to live up to grand promises of serving not just better food, but a better experience, it needs to re-think established spaces and models.
Though research is still being conducted, students have been asking for longer cafeteria-style tables, Vigg said in an interview. Elon Dining would be wise to give students what they’re asking for. It just might go a surprisingly long way.