Catlett Dining Hall closed on weekends due to low turnout and decreased enrollment

A change from last school year, students speculate why Catlett’s dining hall and “Fire Up Late Night Grill” are closed on weekends. The change is due to lower freshmen enrollment numbers and a decreased student dining weekend turnout.


Ashley Morris

Catlett Dining Hall as seen on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017.

Kinsey Phipps, News Reporter

New and returning students arrived on campus this year to find the Catlett Marketplace and Fire Up Late Night Grill closed on weekends.

Fall 2017 was the first semester of operation for Catlett, and the incoming freshman class contained larger numbers than the University of Iowa had anticipated, so Housing & Dining decided to open Catlett’s dining options on weekends.

However, that move wasn’t in the original plan, University Dining Director Jill Irvin said. Catlett was designed to be a Monday through Friday operation.

On campuses across the country, there are traditionally low number turnouts for students using on-campus dining Friday through Sunday, Irvin said. Whether that’s because many students return home or eat out more, dining halls don’t get as much traffic as weekdays do, she said.

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“I was used to [Catlett’s weekend service] last year, so it was definitely weird when I first moved in,” second-year student Savannah Buys said. “But I’m not here as much on weekends, so it makes sense why it’s not open.”

Each semester, Housing & Dining analyzes statistics on students’ dining use. Fall semester trends hold the most weight in decisions for the following year, Irvin said, because students have their routines down by the first few weeks of the semester.

Each spring, Housing & Dining looks at customer counts, students who have meal plans and which dining halls they use most, what times they go, the flow on certain days of the week, and enrollment, she said. Based on that data, the following fall’s locations and hours of operation are determined.

In addition, Housing & Dining pays attention to student requests and feedback.

“We also look at comments we receive from students throughout the year, what kinds of services they’re interested in,” Irvin said. “We went through a period where we were trying to push back our closing time for our marketplaces during the week, and that was in direct response to students saying they want later hours. If there’s something that’s a common thread among students, then we see if it is something we can accommodate.”

Catlett and Burge are dining halls servicing the East Campus, and Hillcrest services the West Campus. Burge and Hillcrest both have all-day hours of operation for students on weekends.

It didn’t make sense to have two East Campus dining halls open on weekends, Irvin said, because of traditionally low weekend turnout and because this year’s freshman class plateaued in enrollment compared with the previous year, she said.

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Officials chose Burge to remain open because it can accommodate more students. Burge has around 1,000 seats; Catlett seats 800.

Because of the change, Housing & Dining saves on labor costs, Irvin said. Catlett has a smaller number of employees working Monday through Friday, and many of the extra employees who worked for Catlett’s extended hours last year were able to switch to Hillcrest or Burge. No jobs were lost to those who wished to continue working for Housing & Dining, she said.

Meria Ivy, a part-time employee at Catlett since the fall of 2017, said in an email to The Daily Iowan, “A lot of students go home on the weekend, so there are fewer people to serve. If Catlett was open on the weekends, I believe there would be a lot fewer students willing to work during the week, which could add strain to anyone with a short-staffed shift during the week.”