Updated: Aug. 21, 2014 at 5:12 p.m.
J Street will undergo its first venue changes in two years this semester, as the University replaces two Asian eateries with traditional American fare and closes the campus dining hall’s largest venue.
The Metro Diner, which opened in 2011 with hopes of boosting J Street’s declining sales, shuttered this summer to make room for more seating. Under a new name, “The Grill,” the venue will take the same greasy menu of burgers and chicken fingers to another space in the food court, replacing longtime Asian food eatery Bamboo.
J Street’s hot food bar will serve some of the Asian food options that were available at Bamboo, and the dining hall will continue to offer sushi.
Officials will also replace BONMi, a Vietnamese sandwich joint that came to campus in 2012, with a carry-out market of deli meats and fresh fruits and vegetables. That space has seen the most turnover in the last two years, with three different venues moving in and out.
“The enhancements made to J Street this year will provide the best possible dining services to our students,” said Nancy Haaga, director of GW’s Campus Support Services. She declined to sit for an interview.
After swapping venues every year since officials booted mainstream fast food joints like Wendy’s in 2011, J Street avoided major changes to its venue roster last year.
As the University’s food provider, Sodexo, comes closer to the end of its contract in 2016, the dining hall continues to struggle with waning interest.
The Coffee Stop will also receive a facelift and serve Starbucks coffee instead of Seattle’s Best, which Haaga said was a “natural choice” because of Starbucks’ popularity among students. What’s a Bagel, the same brand served in the GW Deli, will also supply bagels to the venue, alongside fresh-baked goods from local bakeries. Lastly, J Street will add a smoothie and juice bar.
Haaga declined to provide sales figures for J Street. The University has refused to disclose sales information since 2012, after GW removed the dining dollars requirement for sophomores and sales subsequently dropped 24 percent.
Haaga said in 2012 that the Metro Diner started falling short of students’ expectations a year after it opened, with complaints about long wait times for grill items. She said then that GW had hoped the large venue would help lift J Street sales.
Officials revamped the space, launching a social media marketing campaign that focused on new hot bar items and late-night hours. The changes came amid a wave of GW dining administrative changes, with the University replacing three top employees in the span of a few weeks.
This summer, officials moved ahead with renovations, closed Metro Diner’s storefront and put up an unmarked white wall. The area once reserved for ketchup stands, soda machines and the diner’s hot bar now has additional seating.
The kitchen, the largest in J Street, still sits behind the wall. University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt declined to comment on what would happen to the space or equipment.
The Grill hopes to entice students with a new deal: $4.99 fill-your-plate breakfast, offered weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The Metro Diner had previously offered a similar hot bar breakfast special at $7.99 to offset the complaints about long wait times.
Student Dining Board Chair Molly Hogan said the special shows that J Street officials are trying to accommodate students who want to grab food quickly from J Street before class, something that was more difficult to do before last year’s dining chair pushed to have the dining hall open earlier.
Hogan said she hopes that by extending hours, the University will tap into a market of students who previously did not stop at J Street.
“The new hours allow for freshmen to be able to have some fresh food in their rooms and help them so they don’t have to exclusively plan their meals around the time J Street is open,” Hogan said.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
In the headline, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that J Street would no longer serve Asian food. Two Asian food eateries will close, but Asian food will still be available at J Street’s hot bar. We regret this error.