The University will pull the Indian restaurant Aroma out of J Street after fewer than two semesters – marking the third venue swap at the dining hall in the past six months.
GW’s dining head said Aroma’s sales have fallen short this semester, and the University plans to replace it with more of J Street’s signature pay-by-the-pound salad and side dish options.
The change comes as a result of a Student Dining Board survey of more than 700 students that revealed J Street fails to attract upperclassmen, with just 17 percent of sophomores saying they would stop there if hungry, compared to 58 percent of freshmen.
Freshmen are required to spend $700 per semester at GW-run dining halls, a stipulation that also applied to sophomores until last fall. Director of Campus Support Services Nancy Haaga maintained that J Street’s overall sales semester were strong, boosted by this fall’s addition of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, though she declined to release sale numbers.
“The feedback we received confirmed what we already knew,” Haaga said.
Chair of the Student Dining Board Michael Morgan said the survey, the first of its kind, would become a regular method to gauge student opinion of the dining hall.
About 30 percent of students who responded to the survey said they wanted more traditional American cuisine options in a hot bar.
Haaga also said the Metro Diner – which was new to J Street last year and is now open the most hours out of any other venue – has also let down the office this semester. And after the University switched up the menu this summer, expanding self-serve hot bar options and upping its marketing efforts around campus, it still lags behind Haaga’s expectations.
J Street’s hot bar faces competition from Whole Foods, which opened last fall with a popular pay-by-the-pound bar that offers similar types of food.
To save the cornerstone of J Street’s overhaul in fall 2011, Haaga will oversee another reworking of the diner’s menu over winter break. The office could scrap the diner’s hot bar, which was added over the summer after students complained of long waits for grill items.
Morgan said his committee will work to turn the venue into “the American diner students want to see on campus.” He said he wants to add a hallmark item, like a special burger or sauce.
But Morgan said the most important information they received from the survey was that students can’t get past J Street’s poor reputation.
“The food that they put out is very high quality. That has not broken through to the student population,” Morgan said. “We’re going to focus on getting the students to appreciate the quality of food they see at J Street.”