Recently, an astonishing piece of news tore through the doldrums of the first days of classes for students at the College of William and Mary. This upcoming fall, returning students will be able to spend their Flex at a new dining option: Chick-fil-A in Tribe Square. They can use their Tribe Cards to buy as many waffle fries and chicken sandwiches as they want to eat to avoid the dining halls, so long as they are willing to make the trek up to Richmond Road.
This is a particularly interesting development to freshmen such as myself. Many upperclassmen are accustomed to having many dining options because, in past years, more establishments were near or on campus that accepted Flex. Such places included The Crust, Mooyah, Subway and Pita Pit, all restaurants that used to reside in the currently vacant Tribe Square. Chick-fil-A is not a novelty to the College because it too used to be offered to students. Unfortunately, those establishments closed and left, leaving students only fond memories of the Flex they spent on decent, more palatable food options. These places had become ingrained in their college lives as a way to meet with friends or take a break from the stress of life as a twamp. For example, a friend of mine often remarks that as a fun treat and bonding activity, at the end of every semester her club would dig into The Crust’s famous skillet cookies together. Perhaps, to people like her and to other upperclassmen, the moving in of Chick-fil-A is more like the welcome return of the old days instead of anything novel or shocking.
Freshmen like me, however, only know the current reality of dining at the College: the sad, empty windows of Tribe Square, the Sodexo domination over our daily dining habits and the depressing mediocrity of dining hall food. The two options left, Cosi and Qdoba, can only get one so far before even they start to look unappealing (this is made even worse if, like me, the freshman in question isn’t fond of those options to begin with). I have often bemoaned this fact to my friends at other colleges with superior food options. To actually have our dining situation change for the better seems too good to be true. I’d always assumed Tribe Square would languish, unused, for my entire college career. But it turns out I underestimated the College’s commitment toward filling those empty spots.
It is odd to imagine walking into an establishment that’s not inside a library or student center and being able to use Flex for food not provided by Sodexo. The novelty of this prospect is exciting, especially considering Chick-Fil-A’s waffle fries and chicken nuggets have always been one of my guilty cravings, and I am probably not alone in that out of the student body. Admittedly, though the idea of a working Tribe Square is peculiar now, at least to freshmen, it is likely that by the end of the fall semester Chick-fil-A will become taken for granted in most students’ lives. It will be too easy to slip into the custom of eating at an already well-liked and familiar fast food joint right off campus. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my eating habits next semester will probably mean my Dining Dollars do not last to December.
This revelation also hopefully means a positive trend for the future of dining at the College, i.e. a larger expansion of dining options for the students. The next step would, obviously, be the renting out of the other vacant spots in Tribe Square. To be a viable option, the to-be-determined establishment must be easily liked by college students. But, there are other parameters that would make it ideal.
One is to be more vegetarian-friendly. Many vegetarians I have met at the College are frustrated by the lack of options on campus for diverse, enticing vegetarian or vegan foods. It seems reasonable to bring in a place about which the parts of the student body with tighter dietary restrictions can be excited. Let’s face it, Chick-fil-A isn’t exactly very vegetarian- friendly; while fries are always an option, there are only so many one can eat before, out of boredom, turning back to the tofu and beans of the dining hall.
Another welcome addition to the campus would be a dining option dedicated to a cuisine from a specific culture. While good, all-American chicken nuggets and pizza are excellent choices, it would be nice to get something a little different than the current options, at least food slightly more authentic than the dining halls’ versions of “ethnic” food. A departure from the norm would (perhaps literally) spice things up. Considering this as well as the aforementioned criteria, Greek or Indian food both seem like superb options to go into Tribe Square, as they both would be flavorful additions to the dining options as well as being vegetarian-friendly cuisines. It’d be amazing if, after a difficult exam or a long day of classes, one could spend Flex on a decent falafel or curry.
But, even if Chick-fil-A’s business is less than ideal or does not herald a dramatic shift in college dining options, at the very least it is a welcome change from the depressing vacancies of Tribe Square. Now, three empty sections will remain, perhaps in the future filled with an option even better than Chick-fil-A. After all, we will need somewhere to eat on Sundays.
Email Renee Napoliello at [email protected]