SPU dining services makes COVID adjustments

Gwinn Commons continues to service students, with new standards for safety

Kyle Morrison, News Editor

With new rules in place beverages now come in cans rather than from the dispensers that are normally used in Gwinn. They have a selection of sodas and water, both carbonated and still.
(Marissa Lordahl)

Gwinn Commons is a community gathering area for many Seattle Pacific University students. During the school year, campus residents pack into the tall building, sandwiched between Ames Library and Weter Hall for a meal, a study area, or a chance to catch up with friends. 

Like many things in the world, Gwinn looks quite different this quarter. With social distancing, and a simplified menu, gone are Allen’s omelettes, extensive sunday brunches, or packed lines for the different stations.

Despite the different landscape and selection, SPU and Sodexo, the company that manages SPU’s dining services, are still left with an obligation to feed the hundreds of paying customers staying in residence halls, who are still going to be looking for quality and nutritious food throughout the year.

“We’re going to try to work through what’s best for our customers, what do they want and how do we best serve them?” said Gwinn Commons general manager Kim Karstens. “Really it’s going to come down to how do I get the volumes through during our peak times, to make sure you’re getting to your next class but getting a great meal and having a good experience.”

In order to comply with King County health guidelines, all SPU dining locations adhere to strict protocols, which apply to both employees and customers. 

“We have of course become very fluent in all of the safety protocols required for keeping our employees and our customers safe,” explained Karstens. 

In order to comply with safety protocols Gwinn Commons and the other dining areas have made major changes.

All self service stations are gone, all food items are either pre packaged or served by a member of SPU’s professional staff, all customers will be socially distanced.  This is guided by signage and stanchions that arrived for week one. 

Masks are required in all dining locations, unless actively eating in designated areas. All customers have to take one way paths through the different dining locations, meaning the entrance and the exits are completely separate. Plexiglass has been installed around all cashier stations, and cash is not accepted for any transaction unless the customer has exact change.

Students are allowed to eat in Gwinn either alone or with their roommate if they have one. (Marissa Lordahl)

Getting food in a communal dining hall is one of the few areas on campus, besides certain classes where more than five people are allowed to be in the same area. Despite this Karstens is very confident about keeping customers and employees safe.

“There is not a risk (for COVID), we manage our food service really tight, to where employees have been properly trained on proper handling of food and we’ve always been doing that, that is our standard,” said Karstens. “They’re wearing gloves, they’re washing their hands, their hair is restrained. You know we’re holding food to the right temperature… the food is handled in a very safe way.”

With all the new protocols and less stations available, menus will be affected. Einstein Bagels and Bertona Street grill have both had to condense their menus.

At Gwinn Commons, all meals are being held to the standard of the simple servings menu, in order to avoid the top eight allergens and  provide a vegan option, thus making all meals accessible. With all these restrictions, Karstens still believes that SPU dining, and particularly Gwinn, can supply quality meals with a decreased but substantial variety.

“We have two hot stations that you can pick from and two cold stations, so basically four choices every meal, and it changes everyday, and it changes every meal.”

Students and staff alike follow markers to each of the three identical stations set up. (Marissa Lordahl)

Karstens went as far as to say that they are considering bringing theme nights back for Oktoberfest and Halloween. 

SPU dining will also be adding an online ordering option within the next month, that they hope to perfect this quarter, in order to move more people in and out of the dining hall and avoid large crowds. This online option will take the form of an app and will be tied to your Falcon Card. 

Gwinn and other SPU dining locations looks very different this quarter, but students can still expect to get well fed as they tackle the new term.

“We wanna make sure that you’re here to study, you have a great living experience even though it’s different, and the same thing when you come through to dine, even though we are wearing masks we’re still smiling behind it,” said Karstens.