Perimeter students can no longer dine on campus

Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Due to a decrease in face-to-face classes and on-campus activities, Perimeter dining halls saw a considerable decline in business. 

As a result, Perimeter campus dining halls have closed for the remainder of the fall 2020 semester.

Executive Director of Dining and Sustainability Lenore Musick said this change in sales and not meeting business expenses were the leading causes for the campus cafeterias closing. 

The reopening of the cafes has yet to be determined by the executives at Georgia State, including all Starbucks cafes. 

Before the consolidation of all Georgia State’s Perimeter campuses, the Board of Regents put out a Request for Proposals for food management contract companies. 

The request allowed “any school within the [University System of Georgia] to utilize an approved food management company without having to go out and bid.” 

According to Musick, this was a beneficial deal because it allowed more remote locations to pull in contract companies they probably could not do independently. 

Four out of the five Perimeter campuses were listed in the bid package deal awarded to Aladdin through the Board Of Regents. 

The Perimeter and Atlanta Campus may have consolidated, but their dining halls, not so much. Aladdin is a third-party food management company that operates the campus cafes

The BOR based this deal on the different campuses’ original infrastructures, excluding the Alpharetta campus because of lack of equipment for a dining hall. 

Meaning, PantherDining has a limited say on pricing and operational aspects; they also only assist Perimeter campuses with some facilities and equipment elements. 

Student Government Association Speaker of the Senate Brianna Bailey voiced her opinions about how campus life has changed and the closing of the Perimeter dining halls, calling it “very concerning.”

“SGA possesses the ability to propose the need for services such as dining on Perimeter campuses to the administration. However, we do not have the power [or] authority to require them to operate differently or fund necessary solutions,” she said.

According to Bailey, COVID-19 has severely affected the Atlanta campus dining halls, prompting several changes. 

“Only two of the three dining halls remain open after the closing of Patton Dining Hall for the semester,” Bailey said. “Panda Express closed after the first few weeks of the semester, and the food court in Student Center West reduced its operating hours.”

According to Musick, students can expect to see some “exciting new vending options coming on Perimeter Campuses.” SGA is also working with the Dean of Students to bring some new options to the Atlanta campus’ PantherDining. 

Perimeter students can find similar food options along with discounts with Panther Dining at the Downtown campus.

“[The] Atlanta campus offers a variety of discounts when paying with PantherCash,” Musick said. “An example is you can dine in one of the dining halls, all you can eat. If you pay with PantherCash, you can get a 20% discount that makes your lunch right around $8, plus tax.” 

Perimeter students will not take any financial losses, as in-state and out-of-state tuition does not include meal plans and dining halls. Still, it does inconvenience some on-campus students who don’t have nearby restaurants.

“There are countless concerns [that] the impact of COVID-19 has [had] on general campus life, and the availability of food services is one of them,” Bailey said. 

The university is not seeing nearly as many students as it’s used to around this time in the semester, so it has to operate accordingly. 

“COVID-19 has changed the landscape of many industries, but especially the hospitality industry,” Musick said. “Some drastic measures were taken to help maintain a sustainable outcome for many dining operations.”

Musick encourages students to monitor the dining hall website for any updates on the campus cafes’ reopening. 

“This is a concern across all collegiate campuses, and similarly, we are taking things one step at a time,” Musick said. “Most importantly, we are providing a safe environment for customers and staff.”