Completed renovations at Virginia Tech’s West End Market have made 177 new seats available to help improve the sometimes crowded conditions at the popular dining center. The additional seating, as well as an expanded loading dock and an area to collect used grease for recycling, were designed to advance Virginia Tech Dining Services’ sustainability efforts, as well.
The new seats at West End Market will provide students with more opportunity to dine together in a community setting, as well as offer more seating options in what has become one of the university’s most-trafficked dining venues, says West End Market Assistant Director Stephen Garnett. “When West End Market opened in 1999, we expected to see about 2,000 people per day. But we ultimately saw more than that. So space has always been a challenge.”
Space has also played a role in some of the dining center’s sustainability initiatives, including the high numbers of diners requesting styrofoam to-go containers.
“The additional seating also helps with our sustainability efforts because one of the main reasons people got food to go was they weren’t sure they could find a seat,” Garnett says. “We would like to turn that around and use more china and fewer to-go containers.”
The renovations also included an expansion of the loading dock area so West End Market could more easily participate in Dining Services’ composting program, and a special area to collect used fryer oil, some of which will be converted to bio-diesel fuel.
Other improvements to the dining center include additional public restrooms near the Fighting Gobbler Sports Lounge, staff offices, a larger kitchen, and two new walk-in freezers/coolers for food storage to assist in lessening the need for employees to transport large amounts of food from one end of the dining center to the other during crowded periods.
Garnett says the driving force behind the renovations was a large amount of student feedback requesting extra indoor and patio seating for West End Market.“[Virginia Tech’s] Student Government Association provides feedback, and we get feedback from Table Talks. So, it was great to be able to do this for the students,” he says. “Whether it’s menus or hours of operation, we really do listen to student voices and accommodate them whenever possible.”
Dining Services also gained feedback from independent surveys and a national survey conducted by the National Association of College and University Food Services.
Construction is currently under way on the new Turner Place Dining Center, which will open in August, replacing Shultz Dining Center as the only dining facility near the academic side of campus.