Q&A with Ted Faulkner, director of dining services
Q: How will the start of this academic year be different?
TF: The start of school is going to look very similar to past years. Our new students will be learning how to navigate the university and our 46 dining concepts. It’s controlled chaos and a really exciting time. For the first three weeks, students will still be finding their way around campus, but then things will settle down. We’re really looking forward to serving them.
Q: What measures have you taken to prepare Dining Services for the enrollment surge?
TF: Dining Services has taken several steps to handle the over-enrollment. We have extended the hours of our dining centers and added to the selection of our Grab & Gobble prepackaged meals, which students can get as takeout or eat in our dining centers. We also incorporated self-ordering kiosks and payment systems at several locations to improve efficiency and enhance customer experience. We’ve also added new staff, expanded our recruiting efforts, have increased our starting wages, and are now offering hiring incentives. We’re really excited to bring these developments to our students.
Q: Will you offer extended hours at dining centers?
TF: Dining Services will have extended hours this fall at six of our largest dining centers. We’re adding 199 hours of service every week, which totals over 6,400 additional hours for the academic year. Owens Food Court will be open for breakfast for the first time in decades, beginning at 7:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Also, Dunkin Donuts in Hokie Grill will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. for breakfast and lunch. These are just a few of the changes.
Q: Tell us more about the Grab & Gobble options available.
TF: Grab & Gobble meals are Virginia Tech’s signature grab-and-go options. They have been a favorite with students, and their popularity has continued to grow the last few years. We have expanded the concept to include fully cooked entrees for students to take back to their residence halls or apartments and reheat. We were also excited to launch Xpress Lane, a 1,400-square-foot urban market in Dietrick Hall with display cases filled with quick, prepared meals as well as 280 new marketplace items.
Q: Will the award-winning food trucks be deployed during peak hours?
TF: Dining Services has two award-winning food trucks, The Grillfield and Periodic Table, and we’re committed to having them out during lunch and dinner during the week. New for this fall, one of the trucks will offer breakfast service as well. The trucks will operate in underserved areas of the main campus, specifically the academic side of campus where there are fewer dining options.
Q: You’ve deployed some mobile ordering options. Have those been successful? Is there anything new in that realm?
TF: Our mobile ordering app, Grubhub Campus Dining, is really popular and used by more than 18,000 students. It allows students to place orders, customize their meals, and pay with a dining plan without having to wait in line. We have expanded the service to more than 30 venues on campus.
Q: Are there things students can do to adjust their mealtimes? When are the peak hours that students should avoid?
TF: Dining Services has the capacity to fulfill everyone’s dining needs on campus. We can offer helpful hints for the best experience. The shortest lines are usually during the middle of each class period. Waiting a half hour to eat after getting out of class will minimize wait times. Eating lunch on the residential side of campus at Owens Hall, D2, or West End Market is also a great way to avoid lines.
Q: You mentioned hiring and employment incentives. What incentives have you offered?
TF: Our student employees are a big part of our success at Dining Services. We have more than 1,600 student team members. And we’ve really taken a proactive approach to hiring this fall. Our entry rate at $10.50 an hour is significantly higher than previous years and very competitive in the local market. We offer a $10 meal voucher for every shift that is four hours or longer. We’ve also adjusted the pay rate for our student leaders. All those measures – plus an additional $1,000 bonus for anyone who works 500 hours or more throughout the academic year – position us to recruit and retain wonderful team members.
Q: Do you believe you can maintain the same award-winning, quality service you’re known for?
TF: Dining Services is an award-winning program that is well known on campus, across the region, and nationally. We expect nothing less from our great team than to continue our success and provide exceptional dining experiences this year.
Q: Where can students find the most up-to-date information on Virginia Tech dining?
TF: I would encourage students to visit our website and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook to find updated information and upcoming events.
Q: What else is new and exciting for Dining Services this fall?
TF: Owens Food Court has been completely redesigned and renovated with Globowl Kitchen. This new concept brings authentic, international fare to our community with customizable bowls from seven world cuisines. Xpress Lane, a new market in Dietrick Hall, will be stocked with fast, ready-to-eat meals and market items. We are really excited about these new options.