Samantha Ewing ’23 (she/her), Staff Writer
On April 15th 2021, the student body was surprised with an email announcing the opening of a Qdoba branch on campus in August. The email linked an official announcement from the school elaborating on the logistics of this exciting new dining location. However, after a long summer of anticipation and having already chosen their meal plans, students arrived on campus this fall to find the Qdoba still under construction.
Director of Dining Services Pinky Varghese discussed the current state of the Qdoba plans and how they have evolved since the spring. “We wanted to surprise you[campus] in the fall when you came back,” he said. “August 19th—that was the first official day we had planned.”
Thinking this plan would come to fruition, the college checked all of the boxes on their end, hiring the architect and contractors on time as well as employees for the restaurant back in July. However, the lasting effects of the pandemic have unfortunately led to shortages both in building materials and in construction workers; this accounts for most of the delays dining services has experienced in construction thus far.
In addition to these challenges, the Health Department has contributed to the delay as all construction plans must undergo a thorough approval process before they can be underway.
According to the current construction plan, if everything goes smoothly, the building should be finished by November 3rd and fully open to students on November 15th. However, Varghese emphasized that these dates are subject to change as COVID complications can easily affect the timeline.
“One person getting COVID is enough to delay the process by two weeks,” Varghese said.
Unfortunately, Dining Services has also been experiencing issues with staffing; so far this semester, Davis Café has not been serving hot food due to a shortage of staff.
“There was only one new applicant in the last week and we have 40 openings,” Varghese said.
In the meantime, Davis Café has many grab-n-go options available, as well as BBQ chicken and pulled pork sandwiches.
In order for Qdoba to open and operate smoothly, there are 22 staff members needed: 12 full time employees, 6 cooks, 3 supervisors, and 1 manager. As of right now, dining services has hired the manager, supervisors, and two of the cooks.
“The biggest issue right now is finding people,” Varghese said. “Even if the construction happens on time, even if the health department approves to open it, that takes some time too.”
Health inspectors also need to approve the building once construction is complete before it can operate as a dining location. “If changes are required, that also can delay the whole process” commented Varghese.
Alex Loeb ’22 applied to work at Qdoba over the summer and was set to start at the beginning of the semester. However, he received an email in August informing him that he would be working in Commons instead.
“They waited pretty late to tell me that I wasn’t going to be doing the job that I thought I was going to be doing,” Loeb said. Since receiving this message, he has accepted another job offer on campus.
Meanwhile Kate Spencer ’24 chose the 6/week Plus meal plan and has unfortunately had her dining plans impacted by the delayed opening. Spencer specifically chose her meal plan under the assumption that more dining dollar locations would be open.
“The main reason that I chose the meal plan I’m on is because I was under the impression I could use that increased amount of allotted dining dollars on full meals at places like Union or Qdoba, and therefore wouldn’t need as many swipes to spend at Vail Commons.” Spencer commented.
Over the last two weeks, many students have expressed their wishes for more dining options outside of Commons—especially since Wildcat Den is closed on weekends.
“I wish that there was more communication about what’s happening with Qdoba,” Spencer said. “I was under the impression that it would be open when we arrived on campus.”
Despite the delays and setbacks with the Qdoba construction, the student body still has a great new dining location to look forward to in the future. The original announcement on Davidson’s website back in April details a plan for the Qdoba to be open 11a.m.-9p.m. 7 days a week. With the building averaging 1,200 square feet, there will not be any indoor seating, although Varghese mentioned that dining services may explore adding outdoor seating options at the location in the future.
The new meal plan structure announced back in March was designed to allow for more freedom and flexibility. With the Qdoba on campus, students will have the option to spend dining dollars on smaller items there without spending a whole meal swipe. For instance, if someone wants a smaller meal or just a side of queso, they have the flexibility to order it on the meal plan and pay the exact value of their order.