The ONU Dining Services has implemented new social distancing guidelines prior to the start of the semester. Places like the McIntosh Center (Mac), WOW and Cosi, all look and operate differently than what a returning student might be used to. Capacity has been limited and lines have been spaced out to be compliant with new covid guidelines. 

Colleges across the country have been coming up with unique ways to feed students in the midst of the current pandemic. Larger schools like NYU, have gone with a food delivery approach, partnering with GrubHub for dinner delivery, much to the dismay of some students. Students at NYU were often given the wrong meals, meals that don’t fit their dietary restrictions, or sometimes even no meals. This, however, is not the case for ONU. Given the size of Ohio Northern and the nature of the surrounding town of Ada, the dining services decided to remain open and allow students into the dining hall. 

The ONU Dining Services, headed by Noah Ristau, assisted by Dr. Bradshaw, Vicki Niese and Jason Broge, devised a plan to allow all students to get food safely, no matter what their schedule may be. Capacity in McIntosh Dining hall dropped seating down to 100 people, with no more than 10 people at a table. 

“With consideration to this low capacity compared to the total number of students on some kind of meal plan, we were likewise required to conform to disposable to-go serviceware in anticipation of most meals leaving the building.”

Noah Ristau, General Manager of ONU’s Dining Services

The most jarring change to Mac is the labyrinth of ropes and dividers spanning through the activities room. This section of Mac is currently used as an overflow section. The queue of students has moved relatively quickly compared to expectations.

The original floor plan for the Macintosh Center. This is a prime example of the planning that went in before the semester. (Graphic/Noah Ristau)

“To date, the longest line (at peak lunch rush at 11:55 am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) has only reached nearly to the original entrance into Mac and was clocked at just 10 minutes and 44 seconds to reach the food servers.” 

Noah Ristau

Mac had to reorganize the way food is served given the new COVID-19 guidelines. Students are no longer allowed to get their own food. Consequently, formerly popular food on-demand services like 360 Grill and Pastabilities have come to a halt. This was done to prevent crowding around these areas. 

The empty queue lines leading into WOW. Ropes are one of the many new additions to Dining Service over the past six months. (Northern Review photo / Cole Zaferakis)

The main concern for many students coming into the 2020 Fall Semester was that food at Mac would become redundant and restrictive to those who have limited time to eat. The ONU Dining team thought of this concern and created a solution. They created a “Fast-Pass” option for students who have a limited lunch window or just wish to just grab a premade meal instead of standing in line.

“In this same spirit, meal swipes at Wow – generally confined to times when Mac is closed – has been extended to all meals for while the rest of the COVID-protocols are in effect.” 

Noah Ristau

Despite the lower student population and the changes to dining, student usage of meal plans are at the same percentage compared to last year. One would expect that these changes would cause a headache for both students and staff. This, however, is not the case.

“The staff have done an outstanding job managing to this new normal, and seem to appreciate that the spacing out of customers and streamlining of lines has promoted a more relaxed work environment than the rushes of years’ past.”

Noah Ristau


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