September 2, 2003

DUC offers faculty, staff meal plan

Eric Rangus

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 polite.

“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 community feeling.”

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, visit or call 404-727-6407.