Senior Jonathan Merlin serves himself some steak. photo: Megan Hardesty

With the return of the famous panini makers and the self-serve hot bar, the cafeteria appears to be returning back to normal after a year filled with plastic lunch containers and awkward one-person tables. “Last year COVID-19 definitely made lunchtime more difficult,” said senior Jack Warren. “I felt like on top of not being able to converse with my friends like usual, the prepackaged lunches resulted in me wasting more food than prior years when I could serve myself.” Lunch last year was not only difficult for students, but also for the staff. “Our biggest challenge was physically packing the hundreds of lunches and ensuring that the food was hot for the different time slots when students come,” said Ms. Robin. 

On top of looking to keep students safe with individually packaged meals, utensils and water, Flik Dining Services had to work through challenges that stemmed from the fact that it was their first year catering for the Pace cafeteria. “We had to go through trial and error to see what meals you guys liked and did not like,” said Ms. Robin. After a year of testing different meals, the current cafeteria menu is more suited to student’s preferences. “My favorite meal served is always mac and cheese or anything served with a side of fries,” said sophomore Dhru Lalaji. Freshman Elowyn Allen shares Lalaji’s love for cheese and carbs. “My favorite meal is definitely pizza,” said Allen. “Although this year, I also love all of the different desserts the cafeteria offers.”

The biggest change implemented this year was the return of self-serve. “My favorite part of the cafeteria this year is the fact that students can serve themselves at the hot bar, the salad bar, the panini bar and even at the condiments station,” said Ms. Robin. It is clear that ever since student council introduced the concept of self serve three years ago, students have never looked back. “I love being able to serve myself because then I know I can pick which sides I want or do not want and I can take the portion size that I want,” said Allen. Lalaji agrees with Allen that self-serve is better, however, her reasoning is different. “Self-serve greatly increases the speed of the lunch line,” said Lalaji. “The line moves faster but is also, on the whole, shorter because many students are choosing to skip the hot bar altogether and explore other options like the salad and panini bar,” said Lalaji. 

While greatly improved since last year, students still have some requests for the cafeteria. “The only thing I would improve would be adding another panini to replace the broken one, so the sandwich line is shorter,” said Allen. Lalaji would also like to see the ice cream machine start up again. “Aside from improvements in the cafeteria, I would love for them to bring back pizza and hot chocolate in the snack bar,” said Lalaji. 

______ is excited about the new improvements in the cafeteria but has some feedback for students. “Take your time and come back, the food is not going anywhere,” she said. “A lot of food is wasted, especially on rice and pasta day.” She also hinted at the addition of soup in the near future!

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