By Sarah Nicell || News Editor
After a long day of academics, extracurriculars, and overall exhaustion, there is only one thing more important to college students than a well-deserved nap: food. Diverse is commentary on Franklin & Marshall College’s singular dining hall—better known as D-Hall—with constant complaints and praises in circulation. Ranging from suggestion board comments to student gossip to the Protest Tree, F&M is anything but short of dining opinions. With progress on their mind, F&M’s division of Sodexo has worked tirelessly to improve campus eating this semester. Here I will present to you: what’s new with dining?
Students have likely noticed the flagged robots on wheels driving around campus, flashing heart eyes and starry gazes at passersby. F&M is the first educational institution in Pennsylvania to pilot the Kiwibot program, as Sodexo attempts to add value to dining services on campus with its own robotic version of Doordash or Ubereats. Through the Everyday app, students can order food from any on-campus dining establishment and have it delivered to specific Kiwibot locations to save students time walking and waiting in pesky Blue Line lunch rushes.
“F&M is extremely excited to launch Kiwibot on our campus,” says Michael Baker, the AVP for Auxiliary Services at F&M. “Kiwibot, a robotic sidewalk delivery system, is a value-added service that offers an innovative and state-of-the-art food service option for faculty, staff, and students. Additionally, it will allow dining to expand its food offerings with customizable and fully-branded concepts that will resonate with our campus community. Overall, Kiwibot will further enhance the dining experience at F&M.”
If you see an F&M employee helping the Kiwibots get where they need to be or packing them with a product, that person is a Kiwibot ambassador—a steward for the robotic food delivery system. If Kiwibot’s pilot at F&M is successful, students will likely be hired as Kiwibot ambassadors as well, according to Michael.
Drew Niemann, the General Manager of Dining Services, wanted to address campus rumors regarding Kiwibot’s presumed impact on tuition. “Students think tuition is going up because of Kiwibots,” says Drew. “The only cost to the students is if they choose to have the service provided for them, [however].”
The only true, Kiwi-related cost impacting the college was the arrangement of a small workspace created for Kiwibot-related services and charging stations, which currently resides in the basement of the F&M College Bookstore. This cost did not impact student tuition, according to Drew and Michael.
The Everyday App enables students to order food for pickup from all of the college’s dining locations. By connecting their campus card (which is connected to one’s meal swipes, flex, and Ben’s Bucks) to the app as a form of payment, students can order without much hassle. With a Kiwibot subscription, you can use the Everyday App to order food delivery, but a Kiwibot subscription is not needed for pickup orders.
The app doesn’t end there. Ghost kitchens—like Mr. Beast Burger—are virtual restaurants that distribute food solely by pickup and delivery and utilize the kitchens of other restaurants to prepare products due to their lack of physical space. Students can easily order pickup from select ghost kitchens with Everyday, but Kiwibots will not deliver meals from these ghost kitchens to campus.
It is important to note that the app is underused by the student body, and Sodexo is still working through some minor bumps in the road with the program.
In addition to advancements in campus dining technology, KIVO—D-Hall’s kosher dining option—has become halal-certified. Simple Servings also now meets dietary requirements to be halal.
During past breaks, various criticisms have circulated regarding dining for students remaining on campus. Some complaints were due to additional charges for break meal plans, as well as a complete lack of meal options on campus on certain days. In response, Sodexo will keep Blue Line open for cash or card transactions during specific hours every day during this fall break (October 7 through 12). D-Hall will close after lunch on the 7th and will not open until dinner on Tuesday. Below I will provide the dining schedule for fall break.
“To better meet the needs of our students, F&M will be offering housing and a modified meal plan over Thanksgiving Break, Winter Break and Spring Break this academic year. More information will be announced closer to those breaks,” Michael says in a recent email to the student body.
Overall, F&M’s food service workers have a shared goal: for students to have a better dining experience. As a start, they have incorporated more themed lunches, dinners, and desserts (see the bottom of this article for specific dates). Students are also strongly encouraged to utilize the suggestion boards in the dining hall, as well as check their emails for dining updates. Everyone should be on the lookout for a dining services survey this month asking about student opinions!
“We will look for themes or trends, the common denominators about what we don’t have enough of,” says Drew on the survey, looking to make up for a lack of communication with the student body. The most formal method of connecting with students—F&M’s Dining Committee—remains somewhat inactive, which he hopes will change in the future.
“We want everyone to have a great dining experience,” Drew says, and Michael agrees. Hopefully Sodexo’s ongoing changes will achieve such an ambitious objective: satisfactory meals on a college campus.
October 5: Pho or Ramen bar to celebrate Noodle Day, which is October 6
October 12: Apple Desserts for apple month
October 19: Seafood Bisque Day
October 21-23: True Blue Weekend across campus
October 26: Pumpkin Day
October 31: Halloween Event at dinner
November 2: Fondue Bar for Fun with Fondue Month
November 9: Decorate Your Own Vanilla Cupcake for Vanilla Cupcake Day on November 10th
November 16: Fast Food Day
November 17: Autumn Harvest Event at dinner
November 30: Mousse Day
December 7: Harry Potter Holidays throughout the dining hall for lunch
December 8: Surf & Turf
December 13: Flapjack Fest
Sarah Nicell is a junior and the News Editor for The College Reporter. Their email is firstname.lastname@example.org.