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Hours of operation
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday
1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday
1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
Located on the second floor of The Hub (Sub II), original burger is one of Mason’s newest and most popular dining locations. Hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and veggie burgers are served with french fries and onion rings. Service is highlighted by Rob McCrary, who sings, dances and shouts his way through the day as he creates custom sandwiches. “Talk to me!” Broadside covered the campus character McCrary in a article in February, highlighting his enthusiasm and dedication to the students.
GMU Chew sat down with Ram Nabar to talk about the future of Mason Dining, meal plan rates and why he’s not worried about pink slime.
GMU Chew: What does Mason have to look forward to for on campus dining?
Ram Nabar: Two Einstein Bros Bagels are scheduled to open in the fall. The Taco Bell behind Freshens [in the JC] is moving to Sub I, where Hot Spot is located. Hot Spot probably moving to where La Vincita, there are a couple of different options of where it could go. Chik-fil-a will become a full service location, I know a lot of people are excited about that. A Panda Express in opening in University Hall. However they’re paying rent directly to the university, they’re not contracted through us [Mason Dining/Sodexo]. A vegan restaurant by Whitetop and Rogers.
GC: How do Mason and Sodexo work together to form Mason Dining? Where is the split?
RN: Mason basically is a partner for us [Sodexo] and we’re a partner to them. It’s a very seamless relationship, we’ve worked very closely for over 20 years. We touch so many aspects for life for students on campus. There’s lots of transparency, between what we do and how we do it. We’re one in the same unit. I would bring the restaurant concepts as the Sodexo district manager and the Mason corporate manager. There’s a strong amount of outsourcing, we [Sodexo] just happen to be the experts in food.
GC: Can you explain the budget breakdown of where meal plan money goes? How are the rates figured out?
RN: We’re working on a way to make it more valuable for students. The misnomer is that you’re getting a $6 meal equivalent when you use a meal swipe. Meals may range in actual value up to $8.50. It’s not always just $6 worth of food. We’re working on making it better.
*Editors note: On Monday, April 30, Mason Dining announced that the meal plan values would be amended for the 2012-2013 school year.
GC: Who decides which new dining locations come onto campus?
RN: We work with the auxiliary services team to create new concepts on campus. We bring in dining committees for students, faculty staff, building supervision, any functional groups that have an opinion. We take them out and do a tasting. We get input from Café GMU, student life, whoever is available to handle that side.
Decisions are also driven by what students value. The number one brand asked for is Chipotle. We also have to consider the willingness of brands. Different brands are at different stages in their life cycle. Chipotle is fairly young and very popular and they haven’t seen the need to hit that market [the college market] just yet. We’re in conversations with them but it’s a process.
GC: How are meal plans/prices decided?
RN: We’ve always had value meals (Learn more about value meals and meal plans options) We look at our peer universities and look at their meal plan prices and what they’re charging. We’re at about the 50th percentile to what they charge. Our meal plan prices are very competitive. The best value is the 19 a week meal plan. Freedom is dollar for dollar, more like a balance on a debit card. To get into Southside you have to pay the whole $9, you don’t get the deal. However, you can use it to pay for meal deals. Then it becomes a value.
GC: What does it take to run Mason Dining?
RN: We have 622 people on staff, about 150 are students. That’s roughly 25 percent.Southside serves 2,500 meals a day.
GC: How do you handle pink slime and other health concerns?
RN: We aren’t concerned about pink slime. The reason why we go with system and process that is we do is because our guys don’t have that issue. We use a lot of local suppliers. The moniker for local is a 250 mile radius. That goes pretty far into Maryland and parts of Jersey. For the farms that supply to our major suppliers there’s a quality inspection process. All their systems are checked. Safety is critical. It’s a number one priority, even before taste.
An Interview with Dan Waxman and Benjamin McElhaney
Mason dietician Lois Durant gives you five tips to eat healthier at Mason.
Hear more from Lois Durant in our interview.
Hours of Operation
One Stop is a convenience store located in front of Blue Ridge.
What is your role with Mason Dining and on the Mason campus?
Lois Durant meets with students to help make sure that they can get the food they want and need on campus. She works with health services to create a meal pattern for students with medical condition like celiacs disease or gastroporesis, eating disorders, vegans and vegetarians, and those just wanting to lose weight or eat healthier.
What made you interested in food and why did you decide to become a dietian?
Durant originally went to college hoping to major in Music. She soon found herself drawn to home economics particularly food and cooking. After teaching for around 5 years she decided to go back to college and became a registered dietitian.
What was the food like where you went to college?
Durant went to Winthrop College (now Winthrop University) in South Carolina. The campus of about 5000 students was catered to by one cafeteria that was open from around 7am until 8pm. Mason, she says, has a lot more food choices and much longer hours of operation even compared to other universities today.
Where do you eat on the Mason campus?
Durant mostly eats at Southside since her office is just below it, but likes the new Hotspot and tries to try out all the locations often so she can give students the best advice.
What’s your favorite healthy thing to get at Southside?
Stirfry from the Worldatarian station.
What’s your favorite unhealthy thing to get at Southside?
How involved are you in what restaurants come to campus?
There is a lot that goes into deciding which restaurants come to campus. Recently, Durant has been working with one of Mason’s marketing professionals to make sure that Mason Dining looks at what healthy options the vendor will bring and whether they will release their nutrition information.
How does Mason dining cater for students with food allergies and those who have are vegan or vegetarian?
Whatever options Mason students what and need Mason Dining will work to bring to campus locations.
What do you think about diets?
Durant believes the reason why the person is choosing to diet is the key. If watching what food you eat is just t
o lead a healthier life then it’s fine but often diets stem from body image and other bigger issues.
What do you see students struggling to get enough of in their diet?
Students in general struggle to get enough Calcium, vitamin D and Potassium. To get more of these she suggests eating milk, cheese and other enriched products like Soy Milk, Tofu, dried beans and orange juice.
What are students eating too much of?
Students are definitely eating too much sugar. An easy way to cut down on sugar is by watching the amount of drinks you have that aren’t water, like soft drink or energy drinks.
Do college students drink too much coffee? How should we get our energy?
Students probably do consume a lot of caffeine whether in the form of coffee or energy drinks. The only real way to recover is to get more sleep as there are certain things our bodies can only do at night. And make sure you are eating enough, and all the colors of vegetables and fruits.
College students have very varied schedules, how important is it to get in 3 meals a day?
Durant says students should eat three meals and maybe even a couple of snacks, but don’t go over your calorie needs. Breakfast was considered the most important meal of the day when she was growing up and it still is, so start the day right.
Check out this video of Lois Durant’s five tips for eating healthy at Mason.
Hours of operation
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday
The bistro is a buffet style dining facility located in the ground floor of the Johnson Center. The bistro is specifically designed for Mason staff, who receive a discount.