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Dining renovations add new flavors to ONU palate

After extensive renovations, McIntosh Dining Hall is once again open for business, offering fresh scenery and fresh food to ONU students (photo/Northern Review).

After extensive renovations, McIntosh Dining Hall is once again open for business, offering fresh scenery and fresh food to ONU students (photo/Northern Review).

After summer break, students return to Ohio Northern University, remembering why they chose it to be their home away from home. From the colorful and lush vegetation to the invaluable relationships with peers and professors, it’s hard to imagine returning to a new campus after just a few short months. Of course, even the most seasoned ONU students felt like a prospective student again once they stepped into the newly renovated McIntosh Dining Hall.

Last spring, the University announced that the dining hall would be completely transformed and for good reason, too. The old dining hall had an oddly-colored rug floor, a smelly dish return station, and a general atmosphere that made you lose your appetite. Seems harsh, but that was the reality at times. However, that doesn't seem to be the case now. Upon entry, students already feel a surge of energy. The card swipe counter has been remodeled to match the rest of the interior design and behind is Simply-to-Go, an on-the-go dining option exclusively offered last year at World of Wings (WOW).

Sophomore Shivani Patel said the meal options at Simply-to-Go are incredible, making her feel as though she gets her money’s worth and proper nutrition.

“It’s a good way to make sure I get food in between my busy schedule. I am pretty sure I would be skipping lunch every other day if there was not an option like that,” she said.

It really is a great thing, and it’s great to know dining services watched and listened to the many satisfied customers who used the service at WOW.

As you take another few steps into the dining hall, you’re presented with a very open, well-lit area that resembles the same contemporary style as the rest of the McIntosh Center. The rug floor was replaced with a stylish wooden flooring, which will be much easier to look at and clean up. The seating also received extensive changes; everything was replaced for new, more modern furnishings. The orange chairs are easy to move and comfortable, and the tables are spaced out in ways that allow for more breathing room. Adios to the days of crowded seating and awkward run-ins with other people behind you.

Noah Ristau, Director of Campus Dining Services, said he enjoys the new dining hall, calling it “a perfect reflection of Ohio Northern University’s commitment to whole student development.”

“Everything about the environment is so much sleeker and welcoming; it's become a place we want to spend time in to enjoy a meal,” he said. “The courtyard is an amazing use of space that really enhances the feel of the restaurant, and the brand-new lighting throughout opens the room up further. And the effect of eliminating the old, nasty dish-belt can't be understated: we had a foul-smelling garbage return in the middle of the room; its removal was a top priority when we developed the renovation plan.”

The center of all the hubbub and excitement, and is what some call the “wow” factor of the space, is the Mongolian-style grill known as “360 Grill.”

Not only does the grill occasionally house the main entree of the meal but also the specialty for that day. During every meal, a line of students can always be spotted at this station, and understandably. Fresh vegetables and meats are grilled on the circular grill that gives the station its name. Everything is made fresh right in front of the students!

The other “wow” factor that is worth pointing out is the extra seating area that was once a forgotten wasteland of concrete and scattered weeds. The patio that neighbored the dining hall was completely renovated as contractors raised the floor and built a ceiling, creating more indoor space for seating. The area provides students with a quieter, more private setting to eat lunch with friends, and it’s impressive just how different the space looks now, and it’s not even finished. Ristau confirmed that a door system would be installed to close off the extra room. In addition, the front entrance will also be remodeled to “make the entrance feel even more open and welcoming!” Both renovations are to be completed over winter break.

One issue the dining hall has run into is the new dish return system. What was once a nightmare to walk into is now a nightmare to exit as the entrance is also the exit. This upsets the flow of travel for many students who are trying to leave the small space because other students are trying to get in to return their dishes. I think it would make sense to have a retractable stanchion to divide the space. Students can go in on the left side, travel to the back to throw away any trash and then loop around to the other side to place their silverware on the rotating shelves, exiting out the right side.

Traffic in general can get very congested, especially toward the back, but perhaps a few retractable stanchions can help to control how students move through the stations.

Patel said she needed an on-campus job, so she chose to work for dining services this year. She enjoys the friendliness of all the workers.

“I have enjoyed the experience so far,” she said. “I think that the staff is very kind and helpful, and the supervisors are always around making sure that everything is running smoothly. I have also made a lot more friends in the workplace and got an inside look at the people who are always happy to serve the students.”

Students like Patel are finding more relationships with dining services, and the new renovations are what forms these new connections. Kitchen staff is more visible, food is prepared with care, and the ambiance invigorates students’ love for food and, of course, ONU.