Dining on Campus during COVID-19: Cafe and Rankin undergo major changes to prevent the spread of the virus

Some of the changes include spaced out seating, overflow seating areas, new dining hall layouts, and more.


A screenshot from the SGA Zoom meeting.

   During SGA’s Return to Campus Forum on July 28, General Manager of Dining Services Brad Botkins and Director of Enterprise Development David Mitchell discussed how CSU’s Dining Services would address health and safety concerns amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

   Mitchell expresses that his team’s goal was to “ensure as much safety for students, faculty, staff and dining employees as possible.” He noted that the two biggest challenges in addressing safety at the dining halls was the personal safety of students and dining hall staff, then the convenience of spacing things out.

   “Because of the spacing [social distancing]…the queuing may be pretty long,” said Mitchell. Dining Services will take steps to move the lines as quickly as possible by adding multiple service locations and modifying what food is offered to speed up the lines.

   Mitchell then presented the new Cougar Cafe layout. Botkins explained that the new layout “better accommodates lines based on volume and flow of the space.” The Cafe will have 68 chairs and 68 tables. 

   The entrance to the Cougar Cafe was moved to the old emergency exit door, and now the old entrance is the exit. 

   When students enter the Cougar Cafe and swipe their card, they can make the choice to go to the grill or the home zone. If a student chooses to go past that intersection, they are then able to choose from the remaining options of the Cafe.

   Botkins added that students will also be able to get their food to go. Vegan and vegetarian alternatives will continue to be served at each station. The dish drop off area is remaining the same.

   The original grill area has been temporarily renamed to “Trattoria,” which is an Italian word for a more casual restaurant. This area will offer calzones, pasta, lasagna, pizza, and other Italian foods. 

   Students will be discouraged from moving table to table to prevent spread of the virus. Dining services requests that students wear masks while they are in line. The Azalea room and the multipurpose room in the recreation center, which has been renamed to “Cody’s Corner,” will be utilized to disperse students more evenly. 

   Dining Services will also set up a tent near the Whitley Clock Tower for overflow seating. Mitchell is considering using other spaces on campus for overflow seating if the need arises. 

   The layout of the Rankin Den has also changed. The entrance to the Rankin will remain the same, but once students enter, they have the choice to go to the hot line or a sandwich/salad area. The emergency exit has been repurposed as a regular exit. The inside of the Rankin will have 19 tables and 19 chairs. 

   The Rankin Gardens and Atrium will have a tented area for additional student seating, as the Rankin has limited seating. Mitchell noted that Dining Services can provide portable heaters if the weather becomes cold. 

   The POD market on Broadway will also have a meal exchange option where students can choose from a wider variety of pre-made sandwiches and salads.

   Dining Services will also offer extended hours during lunch and dinner times depending on the influx of students. Mitchell noted that his team will remain fluid during this time. Freshmen living in the dorms will still be required to have a meal plan.  

   All PODs will remain open, but Subway will be closed until further notice. Chick-Fil-A and Einstein’s will remain open, but neither will have dine-in options. 

   The SGA forum can be accessed on Vimeo. Brad Botkins can be contacted at Botkin-Bradley@aramark.com and David Mitchell at dmitchell@columbusstate.edu