Updated dining experience comes to Hoff

By Molly Dynda, Guest Writer

You’ve seen it, and you’ve probably tasted it: Hoff Dining Commons started the year off with updates, and it is just getting started. 

Director of Residential Dining Justin Messina, said the dining hall team is “really just trying to set ourselves up for the future,” with new updates and upcoming changes. 

The most prominent changes are cosmetic, such as the new light fixtures, paint, cabinet paneling, art and backsplashes behind the food stations. Messina hopes to focus on more of these changes in the year to modernize and brighten up the dining hall. 

In this recent wave of updates, Messina and the XU Dining Staff set their focus on food and stations, upgrading equipment at the homestyle and grill lines. 

The staff divided the deli line into two sections: the deli and the cantina station, which provides students with tacos and quesadillas. Messina thought this was the perfect time to take the leap with Jersey Mike’s sandwiches joining the Gallagher food line up. 

Pasta line offerings also expanded, introducing weekly varieties such as nachos, loaded baked potatoes and power bowls with grains, dressings and vegetables. 

Messina recognizes that hosting siminal meals each day has the potential to make students burn out. He emphasized that he is “trying to keep things fresh and fun.”

He plans to fulfill this goal by introducing more events, including a prominent event  each semester and smaller ones weekly. Students have already seen the smoke truck for the BBQ night as a big semester event and a yogurt bar to complement it.

In the near future, the newest update will be Babylon Farms, which will set up a “self-contained grow unit.” 

This unit will use technology that will allow staff to control water, lights and even nutrients on an app as students can watch herbs and vegetables grow in Hoff. Messina plans to use the basil grown for the pizza line, and hopefully in some other menus. 

One of the events to watch out for is a cooking class in the dining hall for small groups of students. Students will learn about some staple dishes using vegetables grown in the Babylon Farms unit. 

“If anyone has ideas for (events) that they want to see, we are happy to hear it because, honestly, it makes our lives easier… if we know what students want,” Messina said.

Messina and the staff utilize the recommendation board located next to the dish drop-off, the “Happy or Not” stand by the exit and want student feedback. Staff goes through the ‘Happy or Not’ ratings weekly, as are the recommendations emailed directly to them.

Staff members expressed that they want to know what the students who eat in the dining hall want to eat and provide the tools for student feedback.