The Stupe is open once again. After a “soft launch” on Oct. 16, the Lower Beamer dining alternative has opened its doors for the semester. Bon Appétit cited equipment delays and a need for increased preparation time as primary reasons for the delayed reopening.
The smell of warm burgers, chicken sandwiches and fries wafting through Lower Beamer has drawn in crowds of students since the Stupe’s relocation to the Beamer Center in 2004. The college’s caterer, Bon Appétit, runs the Stupe as well as Sam’s Café and Anderson Commons.
For now, the Stupe will have shortened operating hours. Luis Colon, Wheaton’s new general manager of Bon Appetit following Raul Delgado’s departure last spring, said that the cafe will be open on Sundays from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m, and that he hopes to add another day soon.
Although the campus hotspot reopened for the first time in April 2022 after nearly two years of closure due to the pandemic, the cafe was only open four days a week, serving an abbreviated menu of burgers, fries and fountain drinks. The limited options were the result of worker shortages, following a national trend in the labor market at the time.
In an Aug. 24 email, Bon Appétit announced the decision to open the Stupe on Friday, Sept. 30.
But that Friday came and went like any normal day. The metal doors leading the way into the cafe remained closed, and students that filled the Stupe’s lounge areas chatted about midterms and the upcoming break instead of the café’s food and drinks.
Senior applied health sciences major Alyssa Mantia expressed disappointment about the delay.
“During my freshman year, I would get food on my way to class because I had classes back-to-back. I didn’t have time for the dining hall,” Mantia said. “I was so excited when the Stupe reopened at the end of the last semester. I thought that would be the new norm, so I felt as though I’d been let down.”
Colon said that Bon Appetit had been waiting on necessary food service equipment. They had also been crafting and preparing the Stupe’s new menu, which includes the classic “Beamer Burgers,” grilled chicken burgers, black bean burgers and hot dogs along with salads and fries.
Colon said that everyone on campus — Bon Appétit employees, students, staff, and faculty — is navigating dining-related changes, including the college’s return to pre-pandemic practices with no take-out containers available, Bon Appetit’s new breakfast hours and the introduction of “light fare” (food and beverage offerings between traditional meal times) in Anderson Commons.
“Sometimes changes are not so popular,” Colon said. “We have to consider a lot of factors and try to do what’s best for everyone. After a while, people will understand.
In the Aug. 24 email, Bon Appetit announced updates to the offerings at Anderson Commons for the 2022-23 school year in an email to students, staff, and faculty. The changes include the addition of ‘light fare,’ a smaller hot meal served between regular meal hours, the shift to make breakfast start later, the removal of trays and to-go boxes, the SimplyOasis station for those with dietary restrictions and the addition of new executive chef Tim Moseley. These changes reflect Bon Appetit’s plan to listen to students by incorporating student preferences into the dining experience.
Luis Colon is Wheaton’s new general manager of Bon Appetit, following Raul Delgado’s departure last spring. Colon oversaw these new changes, working to create the best possible dining experience.
“We wanted to upgrade what we were offering, our equipment and the quality of the food,” said Colon. “One of the best things that I think we did was that we listened to the students. For us, simplicity was everything.”
As Wheaton moves “from a pandemic posture to an endemic response,” according to a July 22 email addressed to undergraduate students from the President’s office, the college’s food service provider has returned to pre-pandemic operations. To-go boxes, a COVID staple designed to support social distancing, are no longer available to most students. Though present before the pandemic, trays have also been permanently removed from the dining hall.
Bon Appetit cites sustainability as a primary reason for this change, as well as the added costs of the plastic containers themselves and the added costs from extra students who, during the pandemic, would swipe in for one meal but take an extra to go. However, students who test positive for COVID will still be able to use disposable boxes to take their meal home.
“Going to Saga is for the experience of sitting with friends, talking and having a good time,” said Cross.
With the addition of ‘light fare,’ students can now have a hot meal at any point during the dining hall’s open hours. This recent addition is partly in response to the Stupe’s current closure as well as students having class times that conflict with the regular mealtimes. During light fare hours, students can eat brunch, a late lunch, or early dinner from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. to 5:00p.m. on Monday through Friday.
To make it possible for the staff to provide hot food from open until close, Bon Appetit has delayed their start time. Breakfast service now begins at 7:30 a.m.
Junior elementary education major Maggie Bergevin is disappointed by this change. “I really liked being able to go to breakfast right at 7:00 a.m. This basically means that I can’t get to breakfast before my 8 a.m., even if I wanted to. And breakfast is the best meal of the day, in my opinion.”
Another update is SimplyOasis, Bon Appetit’s new station for students, staff, and faculty with dietary restrictions. Students who choose SimplyOasis will be served food by a designated member of serving staff in order to avoid cross-contamination at the station with the option on display.
Cross said that “it has limited what I get to eat when I have dinner. Last year, I was able to look at what there was and decide. Now, one option is all they can do. That fun element of picking what you get to eat is no longer an option.”
Colon admitted that sometimes changes are “not so popular. We have to consider a lot of factors into these things, but after a while, people will understand.”
While Colon is excited about these new changes, he also looks ahead to additional goals.
“We’re probably gonna change a few things on the menu as well, because I have a new executive chef with great ideas that we want to implement right away,” said Colon. “We’re probably gonna change the look of the dining hall soon as well, to liven it up with nicer lights, brighter walls, a brighter space.”
To better understand students’ thoughts and concerns, Bon Appetit has implemented a feedback system using Zingle, a direct text line. Students can now text 630-426-7853 with questions, comments, or compliments, according to the sign posted on the kiosk.
“Our job is to feed everyone here,” said Colon. “We’re in the business of providing nourishment with great hot meals to the students, faculty, and staff.”