Commons to end hot breakfast

Commons
Photo by Maria Zepeda.

This story has been updated to reflect the version published in print on Aug. 22, 2014. 

Breakfast in Commons is now a thing of the past.

Starting this year, the storied dining hall will be open only for lunch. Instead, five of Yale’s residential college dining halls — Ezra Stiles, Morse, Branford, Saybrook and Silliman — will serve hot breakfast. The change in schedule accompanies a major shift in Yale Dining’s food production process. Cold food such as salads and sandwiches, which used to be prepared in residential dining halls, will now be made in a new Culinary Support Center, half a mile away from Commons.

According to Director of Residential Dining Cathy Van Dyke, budgetary concerns, food quality and convenience drove the University’s decisions.

“We have limited options for mitigating operational cost increases in order to avoid passing those costs on to our customers,” read a Yale Dining statement, which Van Dyke provided to the News last month.

Last fall, University President Peter Salovey and Provost Benjamin Polak asked all units across the University, including Yale Dining, to institute budget cuts in the coming years in order to curb its $39 million budget deficit. The decision to eliminate Commons breakfast is part of an effort to be fiscally responsible, according to the statement.

Still, labor costs will remain the same for the University. Yale Dining employees are members of Local 35, Yale’s blue-collar union, and therefore contractually immune from layoffs through 2016.Van Dyke said in an email that the creation of a new School of Management café and restaurant, an expansion in West Campus and the opening of the CSC will offset the initial decrease in full-time, 40-hour-a-week positions previously in Commons.

“We will not reduce any person’s hours; changes in hours will happen only through attrition,” she said.

The project will shift roughly 10 percent of dining hall workers’ stationed locations, including the planned relocation of Yale Bakery and Yale Catering workers, Van Dyke added.

Reducing daily use will also help preserve Commons’ aging infrastructure, although the space will eventually require a larger renovation.

Students expressed generally negative reactions about the loss of Commons breakfast. Those walking to Science Hill in the morning often stopped by Commons due to its convenient location, said Miguel Paredes ’18.

“I am very upset — I go there every morning,”  Colleen McCormack ’17 said, adding that the large dining hall had a greater variety of food and visitors than the residential college dining halls, and opened earlier.

In addition to the cutting of breakfast at Commons, a second major change in Yale Dining operations will shift the production of cold foods into a centralized kitchen for the sake of food safety, convenience and space constraints. Sandwiches, salads, fruit and deli items — formerly prepared in 14 individual dining halls — will be prepared en masse at 344 Winchester Ave., near Science Park.

This shift will mean dining halls are no longer preparing cold food for 5,500 students at 14 different locations, the statement said. Doing so will minimize redundancies in food preparation, the statement added.

The production of all cold food at the CSC follows Yale’s Dining’s decision to move the Yale Bakery and Yale Catering — previously housed in Commons — to the new facility. Director of Hospitality and Maintenance Dan Flynn said in April that the new 3,000-square-foot location, which opens this month, will be 500 square feet larger than the current bakery space and will also provide a variety of upgraded kitchen equipment including a set of new ovens.

“The new location [is] providing much-needed new equipment and creating the opportunity for other uses of the space in Commons,” Culinary Operations Manager Veronica Arcoraci said in April.

The Yale Dining statement added that the new facility will help address inconsistencies across dining halls while improving the overall quality of cold food production. For instance, trained pantry workers will now be able to work together in one location, rather than being scattered around different dining halls.

Although students were upset about the end of breakfast in Commons, some noted the potential benefits of the CSC. Aretha Guo ’17 said though the consolidation of food production may depersonalize the residential college dining experience, efficiency is ultimately a more important concern.

The end of Commons breakfast follows the University’s decision to cut dinner meals from the dining hall in 2011.

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