For years the Dobbs Food Court, perched above the
Coca-Cola Commons in the Dobbs Center, has been a triumph of function
over form. Massive amounts of food were dished out to Emory students
(but oddly, very few faculty and staff; more about that later),
who dug in not because of choice (although the food certainly was
not bad, the “freshman 15” has to come from somewhere),
but of convenience.
The restaurant that greets the new academic year is not the one
that sent off the Class of 2003. The menu is different, the attitude
is different, the presentation is different and, if all goes right,
the entire Emory community will, ahem, eat it all up.
Could eating in the Dobbs Center become—trendy?
Alison Barclay hopes so. As marketing manager for campus dining,
it is her job to promote the remodeled eatery—rechristened
the Dobbs University Center Residential Restaurant, but almost certainly
to be forever known as “eating at the DUC”—not
only to students, but to the whole Emory community.
“The theme is ‘Real Food on Campus’ at Emory,”
Barclay said. “We want to appeal to a lot of customers, and
students especially respond to things that advertise a certain lifestyle.”
The restaurant looks like a three-dimensional Gap ad. Gone are the
antiseptic white tile walls of the old food court. They have been
replaced with bright yellows and greens and blues. Stylish artwork
adorns several walls, and complementing the colorful new setting
is shiny new cookware and a variety of new food offerings.
Vegetables are sauteed to order; the pizza station was expanded
to include other Italian fare like calzones; the comfort food station
was redesigned and will contain a variety of foods; the salad bar
now includes stir-fry; the deli will have both pre-made and made-to-order
sandwiches; the dessert station has been expanded; and an organic
station with produce and fresh fruit smoothies has been installed
next to the entryway.
The effort to revamp the residential restaurant began last year.
Campus dining held several focus groups with students, looking for
better ways to serve them. They also met with organizations ranging
from the FAME program to Emory Vegans & Vegetarians, and their
input helped create the updated look and menu.
Also new is the Faculty Staff Dining Membership. By depositing $25
(or more) onto their Emory Cards, faculty and staff can create an
account that can be used at any on-campus dining establishment,
as well as a handful off campus. As part of the offer, new members
will receive 5 percent off all dining purchases.
The membership is a way campus dining is attempting to widen its
customer base, as well as dispel a longheld rumor that only students
could eat in the Dobbs Center. When the food court opened in 1998,
campus dining was concerned that it wouldn’t be large enough
to accommodate Emory’s students. Therefore, faculty and staff,
for lack of a better term, were not targeted demographics.
Many interpreted this as a restriction—that nonstudents were
not allowed to eat in the food court—and for years this belief
has been maintained. For instance, at this year’s Staff Fest,
which was held indoors because of rain, many employees were surprised
they could eat in the food court.
“We can go up there?” many asked.
“We’ve always felt that faculty and staff were welcome,”
said Helen Jenkins, liaison for food services and an Emory employee
for 58 years. She was part of the original conversations about how
to market the food court in 1998. “Back then we weren’t
sure, but there never was a restriction.”
As part of the rollout, campus dining hosted a free lunch for FAME
leaders and staff from the Office of Residence Life. More than 600
turned out for the sneak peek.
Samples were handed out on request, as were full plates. Many people
took more than they could eat, and campus dining staff members both
in the serving line and wandering the restaurant itself were off-the-chart
“I felt like I was at my grandmother’s,” said
Lewis Fuller, operations coordinator in the concerts division of
the music department. “People kept telling me to ‘eat
more, eat more.’”
That is another new feature—a focus on customer service. Dining
staff who once did their cooking behind closed doors have been moved
out into the serving line so they can interact with customers.
“We didn’t want to have just a whole row of trays lined
up,” Barclay said. “We wanted to encourage more of a
The reaction from those who sampled lunch was uniformly positive
and many said they were interested in opening a dining account.
The residential restaurant is open from 7:30 a.m.–8 p.m.,
Monday–Friday, and the cost for a meal, without the 5 percent
discount, is $7.25. To sign up for the Faculty Staff Dining Membership,
or call 404-727-6407.