The Bear creates dining alternatives convenienceJan. 29, 1997
Kevin Johnson/The Baylor Lariat
Freshman Kelley Taxter, a Plano freshman, uses her declining balance account to pay for a snack with friend Susan Mungay, also a Plano freshman, on Tuesday in the Bill Daniel Student Center Food Court.
M-Th 7-9 F 7-8 Sat. 11-2 Sun. Closed
By Michelle Van Rysselberge
Lariat Staff Writer
At noon it's as loud and crowded as Memorial, Collins and Penland cafeterias. Three hours later it's quiet and cozy enough to curl up with a fascinating textbook and an afternoon snack.
It's the Bear, the dining area on the first floor of the Bill Daniel Student Center. The Bear comprises an array of restaurants including Chick-Fil-A, Itza Pizza and Pasta, Grille Works and Blimpie.
There are islands in the food court serving soup, desserts and drinks. Outside of the food court is Baskin Robbins, Gretel's, Dunkin' Donuts and Java Junction.
Aramark Contract Managed Services is hired by the University to handle all food service on campus. Aramark signs contracts with restaurants to take their concept, products and name and hire their own people to run the operation, said David Carter, food service director.
The peak times in the food court are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m., cashier Tonie Ramirez said.
Faculty, students, administrators, visitors to the University and campus employees dine in the student center regularly, Carter said.
Students come to the Bear for different reasons.
'I come here because I can eat without leaving campus,' Alicia Cassar, a Tulsa senior, said. 'If you come at the right time of day it's quiet and you can do homework.'
The cafeterias' limited hours do not accommodate everyone's schedule, but the cafeterias' loss is the Bear's gain.
Michelle McElmurry, a Mobile, Ala., freshman, said she eats at the Bear in the afternoon because the cafeterias aren't open.
The Bear is a refuge for some students who have a break between their classes.
'When I have time in between class, it's not worth it to go home,' said Jennifer Olson, a Panhandle junior. 'By the time I get home it's almost time to go back to campus.'
Cash and declining balance are the two payment options to eat in the Bear.
Two new meal plans, named the Advantage and the Commuter Plus, were added this semester that include declining balance. The five- and 16-meal plans are both available with a $100 declining balance.
'Two hundred students joined the new meal plans,' Carter said. 'That's a winner.'
If students want to have declining balance without a meal plan, they can obtain a form from Carter in the student center or the cashier's office. An initial payment of $50 is required, then additional sums in $25 increments can be added.
Unlike the cafeterias, declining balance rolls over not only from week to week but also from semester to semester. In addition, students can use declining balance in the summer even if they are not enrolled in school.
Most parents feel comfortable sending their son or daughter money for food since they know it will be used for declining balance, Carter said.
Kristin Swearingen, a Victoria junior, said she's glad her parents chose the new five-meal plan with declining balance because she can eat fast food and her parents pay the bill.
When faculty and administrators don't have time to go to the Harrington House for lunch, the Bear is a popular alternative.
'The food is good and it is convenient,' said Dr. Joe Cox, a management professor.
Another benefit to eating at the Bear is seeing students out of the classroom, he said.
Even acts of kindness have been spotted at the Bear this week. After freezing winds blew in Monday, Cox brought his wife Linda, a curriculum and instruction lecturer, lunch from the Bear so she did not have to face the cold.
Some faculty members have the pleasure of working in the student center, so going to the Bear is quick and convenient. Liz Webb, student activities department secretary, said she enjoys going to Java Junction for a latte.
'When you've had a bad day and feel you deserve something special, it's a nice treat,' Webb said.
Prior to remodeling the Bear in 1994, a snack bar and hot line similar to the cafeterias were the only eateries in the student center. Due to college campus trends, surveys and student and administrator input, the Bear was remodeled.
In August Aramark added a coffee shop to the variety of restaurants in the Bear.
Java Junction's success has proved that the University has a market for the specialty coffees that have been a trend in the last five years, Carter said.
Java Junction features Starbucks' coffees such as lattes, cappuccinos, americanos, espressos and mochas. Danishes and donuts are also served. The specialty coffees range from $1.15 to $3.00 as opposed to 54 to 63 cents for regular coffee in the Bear.
Many students are willing to pay an extra buck for Starbucks' variety. Plus, there is an advantage for paying a little more. A 12-ounce cup comes with one free donut hole, and a 16-ounce comes with two.
'I prefer to buy Starbucks coffee because of the variety of flavors,' Olson said.
Ivette Sanchez, a Houston senior, works in the student activities department and would be willing to buy a cup of java if prices were lower.
'The coffee is too expensive,' Sanchez said. 'Since the main clientele is college students, why don't they make it more affordable?'
Although most students are satisfied with the eateries in the Bear, some say they would like to see additional restaurants added.
Cassar said she would like to see Taco Bell, Schlotzky's or Burger King coming to the Bear.
The dining services staff is open to student suggestions, Carter said.
A Comment Corner is located in the Bear for student and customer input. Surveys are available in the Bear and cafeteria twice a year.
Due to the building fund for the Student Life Complex, there will probably not be any new restaurants coming to the Bear anytime soon.
Instead, enhancing the food court and providing healthier foods will be the main focus, Carter said.
However, food service will be a part of the Student Life Complex.
'We're listening and looking for what customers would like to have in the SLC,' Carter said.
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