At 6:20 p.m. in the Hard Knox Café, students can be seen carrying their plates full of food while weaving in between packed tables and chairs. With 354 seats in the Hard Knox Cafe and 150-160 seats in the Oak Room, depending on the number of tables, Director of Dining Services Helmut Mayer acknowledged that it can get a little tight at times and said he has received a few comment cards saying the cafeteria is crowded and needs more seats.
Depending on the weather, such as in the spring when people come to dinner later, the times when Dining Services is the busiest varies. Mayer said the busiest time during lunch is 11:55 a.m. to 1:40 p.m. and generally, dinner is busiest during 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. Dinner is the busiest part of the day.
Senior Kristyn Bridges also said that once it gets toward 6 p.m., “it gets super-packed,” and sometimes it gets to be too much.
“It’s kind of annoying to try to move through people and trying to get your food,” Bridges said.
Mayer said he wishes more people would eat in the Oak Room and that students should know they could cross over from the Hard Knox Café to the Oak Room. He said people go to the Oak Room and then transfer to the Hard Knox Café and not usually the other way around.
When the cafeteria is crowded, junior Laura Castanos said she moves to the Oak Room or goes to her apartment to eat but said that it is not really a huge problem for her.
“It’s not really an issue for me, because I have more options, especially since most days we can move over to the Oak Room, which is less crowded,” she said.
Mayer said he was thinking of a way to make the process of transferring from one dining area to another easier.
“If I can do that without creating accidents, then I would do that. It would help a lot,” Mayer said.
Mayer also said it would be nice to have a bigger cafeteria and “if it could be a bit more spread out, it would be better.”
“If the student population grows, you would have to expand. With the existing population, it’s manageable,” Mayer said.
For those students who do not like crowds, some of them come early or late, when there are fewer people.
“If you really want to be left alone, then you just need to adjust your schedule a little bit and you’ll find plenty of quietness if you wanted to,” Mayer said.
Junior Sean Choate is one of those students who tries to avoid crowds by coming later. When it is crowded, he said he feels a little overwhelmed to find a seat and the lines are long, stretching to the drink fountains.
“Like, where do I sit because there are so many people and you know so many people?” freshman Clare Odin, who sat with Choate, said.
Choate said he likes to have a quiet lunch but in a crowded dining space, he has to talk louder over people. While he could go to the Oak Room, Choate said he “doesn’t like sitting in the Oak Room for some reason.”
Like Chaote, Bridges avoids the cafeteria at the busiest times, when she can. She said having longer dining hours might help with the crowd problem so that “people wouldn’t just have to be cramped at one time, it would be better, I think.”
Mayer said on the other hand, it is not a bad thing if the cafeteria is crowded.
“At least it’s a meeting place, where people go, want to go, want to be so if they want to be there, then it would be crowded,” he said.