Completed renovations at Virginia Tech’s West End Market have made available more than 170 new seats to help improve the sometimes crowded conditions at the popular dining center.
The additional seating, as well as an expanded loading dock and an area to collect used grease for recycling, were designed to advance Virginia Tech Dining Services’ sustainability efforts, as well.
The 177 new seats, located both indoors and outdoors, were unveiled in December after several months of renovations, said West End Market Assistant Director Stephen Garnett. He said the additions will provide students with more opportunity to dine together in a community setting, as well as offer more seating options in what has become one of the university’s most-trafficked dining venues.
“When West End Market opened in 1999, we expected to see about 2,000 people per day. But we ultimately saw more than that,” he said. “So space has always been a challenge.”
Space has also played a role in some of the dining center’s sustainability initiatives, including the high numbers of diners requesting styrofoam to-go containers.
“The additional seating also helps with our sustainability efforts because one of the main reasons people got food to go was they weren’t sure they could find a seat,” he said. “We would like to turn that around and use more china and fewer to-go containers.”
The renovations also included an expansion of the loading dock area so West End Market could more easily participate in Dining Services’ composting program, and a special area to collect used fryer oil, some of which will be converted to bio-diesel fuel.
Other improvements to the dining center include additional public restrooms near the Fighting Gobbler Sports Lounge, staff offices, a larger kitchen, and two new walk-in freezers/coolers for food storage to assist in lessening the need for employees to transport large amounts of food from one end of the dining center to the other during crowded periods.
The driving force behind these renovations, Garnett said, was a large amount of student feedback requesting extra indoor and patio seating for West End Market.
“[Virginia Tech’s] Student Government Association provides feedback, and we get feedback from Table Talks. So, it was great to be able to do this for the students,” he said. “Whether it’s menus or hours of operation, we really do listen to student voices and accommodate them whenever possible.”
Dining Services also gained feedback from independent surveys and a national survey conducted by the National Association of College and University Food Services.
Construction is currently under way on the new Turner Place dining center, which was also heavily informed by student feedback. The new dining center will open in August 2012, and will replace Shultz Dining Center as the only dining facility near the academic side of campus.
Dining Services encourages feedback from customers regarding all of its facilities. Those interested in providing feedback to Dining Services can do so through the department’s online comment card.
Written by Jennifer Gibson.