The new academic year has brought a few noticeable changes to the structure of dining here on campus. Perhaps the most important changes have been to Express and The Retreat. Located on opposite sides of the College Center, the twin grab-and-go cafes are mainstays of non-Deece campus dining.
Major changes include a revamped swipe schedule and moving the hot bar from Express to The Retreat. The hot bar had been included in The Retreat prior to the 2021-2022 academic year.
Associate Dean of the College for Campus Activities Dennis Macheska said the changes were made with strategic consideration. “In the past, Express served three times the number of meal swipes compared to The Retreat,” Macheska wrote in an email correspondence. “Due to the size of the infrastructure, there were often long lines waiting to access Express. Moving the hot items out of Express into The Retreat was one way of shifting the volume of traffic to a larger food service location.”
Some students, such as Maritza Flores ’25, have voiced concerns over the changes. Flores said, “I think it has made the lines at Retreat much longer, and I don’t have a reason to go to Express anymore.”
Dean Macheska also cited staffing concerns as a reason for the change. “In addition, moving hot items to The Retreat helps allocate labor and staffing needs in a more effective manner—the hot food prepared in The Retreat needs to travel a much shorter distance. Soup, oatmeal and other items previously packaged into cups could be offered as self-service options, thus allowing us to allocate labor to other needed areas.”
Garrett Schmid ’25 is happy about the decision to move the hot bar to The Retreat. “It is a much larger space and [it] accommodates the rush of people better. However, I do feel that it has now left Express as irrelevant, and I see little reason for me to use it for the rest of the year.”
The Retreat is now offering a Pick 3 or Pick 4 program. Macheska expressed confidence that students will benefit from the changes. He said, “The adjustments have helped balance the traffic and meal swipes to the appropriately-sized locations. The Retreat is experiencing more utilization similar to what was experienced in Express last year. The lines waiting to access either location have also been reduced meaning students have a more expeditious experience securing food.”
Macheska also emphasized the role of the rising cost of food. “The College now pays more for the sushi than is earned from the swipe,” he said. “Sushi cost rose 300% over last year’s cost. Rather than eliminating sushi from the program, we opted to create a Pick 3 program,” Macheska
If students use their swipe at Express or The Retreat after 3 p.m., Street Eats would require VCash as payment on the same evening. “Actually, we added another full swipe to students for The Retreat that was not previously available,” said Macheska. “Students now have a breakfast, lunch, and dinner swipe (M-F) that can be utilized at either The Retreat, Express, Food Truck, or The Bridge Café. Students have a brunch and dinner swipe on Saturday and Sunday where they previously had only one swipe per day on weekends,” he said.
Speaking specifically on the new swipe schedule, he added, “This modification also allowed for The Retreat to remain open until 6 p.m. instead of the previous 4 [p.m.]. This adds extra service time for students to access food.”