Six months after the much anticipated opening of Virginia Tech's latest dining facility, Turner Place at Lavery Hall remains immensely popular. But while the throngs of diners testify to that popularity, the large crowds have also raised concerns.
Turner Place opened to great fanfare at the beginning of last semester. The first dining hall to be built from the ground up on Virginia Tech’s campus in 42 years, Turner represented a break from the cafeteria-style dining, modeled after the success of West End Market's marketplace feel.
This semester, Turner has grown even busier, serving, on average, almost 2,000 more daily customers than in the fall.
“The lines are really long because everyone comes here,” said freshman English major Erica Palladino, who visits Turner for its salads. “Basically, during the transition times between classes, you don’t want to come at all.”
Among those who cite long lines and crowded seating as major drawbacks to the new facility, initial excitement about Turner Place has waned.
A “Titanic” Problem?
A few weeks ago, frustrated Turner Place customers took to the Internet to air their grievances against long waits and scarce seating at Dining Services' newest facility.
A post on Tech’s community page on the popular social media site Reddit referred to Turner as the “Titanic of dining halls.” The original post negatively assessed the market-style dining at Turner as compared to the cafeteria set-up at Shultz, the venue popular among the Corps of Cadets that Turner replaced.
“Sometimes we need to take a break from inventing the future to realize sometimes, you have to stick to what was good,” read the original post by user y0ur_Liver. “Serving masses of people quickly outweighs nice interiors and facades.” Reddit users remain anonymous beyond user-selected screen names.
The post garnered 70 responses and became one of the most popular comment threads on Tech’s Reddit page. While some defended the Turner Place concept, many agreed that lines and seating were a problem.
The Collegiate Times conducted a poll to follow up on the online complaints. Answers from nearly 160 respondents revealed that, while a large majority of those surveyed felt that the dining options in Turner fit in well at Tech, lines and overcrowding indeed posed a problem for many.
The most commonly reported wait time was between 15 to 30 minutes, with some claiming that they had waited an hour at several shops, especially Q’doba, which the survey showed to be one of the more popular options in Turner.
“Having to wait in line for 20 minutes or more for a burrito is ridiculous,” said one survey respondent. “I recommend hiring more staff, or doing something to fix the issues with crowding.”
Every day we strive to be better”
No one takes these customer concerns more seriously than Dining Services Director Ted Faulkner.
Faulkner and his department worked closely with students throughout the planning and construction of Turner Place — and continue to solicit student feedback — in order to provide a facility that best meets the needs of the Tech community.
“We tried to create a location that we called 'destination dining,'” Faulkner said, referring to the variety of shops and dining environments available in Turner.
According to Faulkner, Dining Services strived — in response to student suggestions and comments — to provide private spaces to work over lunch along with higher-end sit-down locations for special events and celebratory meals.
Faulkner sees in the lines and crowds a tribute to the successes of Turner, but also understands that long waits frustrate potential customers.
“We’ve heard concerns about the lines and we are addressing the inconsistencies," Faulkner said. "Every day, we strive to be better than the next day. I think that’s a tribute to how we’ve been very successful.”
Faulkner cited extending hours for breakfast at some shops and providing more grab-and-go options from sit-down locations as some of the on-the-fly adjustments Dining Services has made to get more customers quickly in and out of Turner Place.