The dining area of the McConnell Engineering building will reopen as a newly renovated food retail location on campus on Oct. 14. While a new coffee location, Dispatch, has already been unveiled right outside the cafeteria, the food court itself has not yet opened.
Oliver de Volpi, executive chef of McGill Food and Dining Services (MFDS), said that the renovations were necessary due to the cafeteria’s poor condition and impractical layout.
“A lot of things were getting quite used and beaten down,” de Volpi said. “The flow was absolutely terrible. Everyone would walk in the same door or the same path as they would walk out all the way next to the cashier [….] We didn’t feel we were able to serve the food that we wanted to serve with the equipment in there and the layout.”
According to de Volpi, Dispatch, the coffee stand right outside of the cafeteria, aims to help lessen the crowds in the café by providing an extra location at which students can buy coffee and quick snacks.
“It’s going to take a little bit away [from] the crowds that used to be in there that were just coming for a coffee and a muffin,” he said.
Mariam Khan, U3 Engineering student, acknowledged the positive design changes but expressed concerns about the new prices.
“I feel the prices will go up more,” Khan said. “I noticed that even in the outside coffee place the prices have gone up.”
De Volpi noted however that there will be a lower -priced option for coffee inside the cafeteria once the new food location opens.
“You’ll see fair trade coffee in both locations, both at Dispatch and inside the [cafeteria], because there’ll be a small, just brewed coffee [place] at a lesser price than Dispatch,” de Volpi said. “Overall, the prices will remain the same as they were last year.”
Carl Fournier, U3 Engineering, agreed that Dispatch should help ease the crowds, but questioned the necessity of the entire major renovation.
“It’s really nice, but the thing is, it wasn’t really bad before,” Fournier said. “We didn’t actually need to renovate it. A good point though is that the Dispatch place, even though they only serve a few things, it takes a big load off the cafeteria because many people were just coming in to get coffee.”
According to de Volpi, the renovation project was done after consulting students and gathering their inputs.
“Many, many discussions happened, not only with the Faculty of Engineering but with the students there,” de Volpi said.
Mathieu Laperle, senior director of Student Housing and Hospitality Services (SHHS) said he had met with the Chairs and Directors of the Faculty of Engineering as well as the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS), earlier in January to present the plans for the revamp of the cafeteria.
“Many liked the fact that the lobby and corridor would be vastly improved as a social space and that this would bring some life to the buildings—something that disappeared with the very sterile renovations in this lobby,” Laperle said.
Funding for the project came mostly from Compass, a food provider, with whom SHHS signed a contract in May, according to de Volpi. A smaller part of the funds came from SHHS itself. In addition to the expenses for the actual cafeteria, these funds covered Dispatch and renovations on the surrounding hallway.
Students will be able to purchase more locally sourced food at the new café, according to de Volpi. Compost bins will also be available at the food court a few weeks after its opening.
“[We will open] a full service food location that will have everything from homemade soups to homemade pizza,” de Volpi said. “They’re going to be using much of our [Macdonald campus] farm produce. All the grab-and-go and all the desserts that will be there will be made in-house.”
A week prior to the opening, there will be a “soft opening” of the new food court, during which some of the new food options will be available to be sampled by a test group from within the Faculty of Engineering.