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Despite some crowding, students happy with lunch option expansion

Photo of Frist Gallery stairs leading down to the late meal area.
Late meal area on the A-level of Frist Campus Center. 
Jean Shin / The Daily Princetonian

Following the recent extension of late meal hours to include standard lunch times, many students now regularly eat lunch at the Frist Food Gallery, resulting in crowding and long lines during peak lunch hours.

According to University spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss, late meal hours were extended to increase flexibility for students deciding where to eat lunch. In an email to The Daily Princetonian, Hotchkiss wrote, “We know that the construction and detours on campus, combined with the location of classes, can make it challenging for students to make it to a dining hall at midday. Those factors, combined with the Butler/First dining hall [Wilcox and Wu Hall]  going offline, prompted us to rethink how we can support students at Frist.”

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The decision to expand late meal hours was likely also connected to recently-implemented restrictions on Personal Electric Vehicles (PEVs). In an email about the PEV ban, sent to undergraduate students in late August, the University said it would be “piloting an earlier start to late lunch at Frist Food Gallery on weekdays to allow students more time to eat lunch between classes,” as an “alternative means to support student movement on campus.”

Many students have expressed gratitude about the extended hours, citing Frist’s appealing central location, convenient grab-and-go options, and food quality. “I haven’t been to a dining hall for lunch in like two weeks,” said Jack Ganley ’26. “[Frist] is better location-wise and in the center of campus.”

The popularity of the extended late lunch hours at Frist can come with downsides. “Everyone goes here now, so it’s busy,” Ganley added. Emmanuela Omole ’26, who eats lunch at late meal nearly every day, said, “We are packed like sardines in there. I try to turn around and my backpack is literally smacking someone in the face.” 

Nevertheless, both Ganley and Omole said that the line at late meal moves quickly, and the experience is worth the wait.

Michael Bryant, a retail food service worker at Frist, said that he thinks the expansion of hours is good for students. “A different flow would be better, especially because construction workers come in and get in the way of students between classes,” he said. Bryant suggested that Frist should designate certain times for non-students to help relieve crowding.

Moreover, students gave mixed reviews of the grill station’s new mobile ordering system, TigerDash. Designed to keep students from waiting in long lines, students are instructed to order 30 minutes ahead to ensure that their order has been processed when they arrive to pick up their purchase. 

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Angela Hernandez ’27 said that she usually orders from the grill online after class. When she orders via TigerDash, her food tends to be ready when she gets to Frist, but when she uses the order kiosk, she has to endure longer wait times.

Avery Danae Williams ’26 said that they think the order kiosk is adding to the crowding issue during lunch hours, since students typically stand near the grill as they wait for their order.

Williams is a contributing writer for The Prospect.

Some students have opted for the Taco Bar, Asian Bar, and Pizza Station, as well as the numerous grab-and-go options, including sushi, sandwiches, and salads, instead of waiting for food from the grill.

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The expansion of late meal hours seems to be helping to mitigate long lines at other dining halls. After the Butler Dining Hall closed last semester, students complained of long lines at other dining halls. At the Center for Jewish Life (CJL) dining hall, lines could be up to 30 minutes long

According to Justin Stetka, the Senior Operations Manager for Campus Dining, the CJL Dining Hall has been serving roughly the same number of students as last semester. They are continuing to use a second buffet as a method to help mitigate long lines.

Davi Frank ’26 said that while the CJL is still busy, the line is much more manageable this semester.

Of course, some students still prefer to go to a traditional dining hall for lunch. Charlotte Pfenning ’26 said, “I only go to late meal if I’m running somewhere else. If I have time to sit down for lunch, I go to a dining hall instead. It’s nice to see your friends in the middle of the day and take time to catch up.”

Hannah Gabelnick is a contributing News writer for the ‘Prince.’

Please direct any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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