Fire Up the Wok!

Nowhere will next September’s arrival of all 900-plus members of the Class of 2003 be more visible than in the Spangler Dining Halls.

As they prepare, HBS and Restaurant Associates officials note that they’ve been through this before: Usage is unlikely to far exceed the levels seen soon after the building’s grand opening last January, when two full-sized classes were also on campus.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t try to do better this time around.
“I don’t think it’s ever a bad idea to expect more people,” HBS Director of Administration Robert Breslow said last week. “We’re going to go into this with the expectation that [September’s] going to be the busiest month we’ve ever had, and get people excited about meeting that challenge.”

HBS administrators say experience has taught them that dining hall usage typically peaks early in the year, when students are new to the campus and the dining halls are crucial focal points for socializing, then tails off as they become more accustomed to the area.

And while encouraging people to use the Shad Caf‚ could ease some of the lunchtime burden on Spangler, Breslow said he does not expect it to have a material impact on the lines.
“People will leave class in a group and often continue a discussion that started in class, and they will naturally gravitate to Spangler to continue that discussion,” Breslow observed. “It’s just a beautiful building. Comparing it to Shad on those fronts is unfair to Shad.”

While architectural consultants have confirmed that the flow of people through the dining hall is actually better than they would expect given its layout, Breslow said he is still conscious of the HBS community’s powerful aversion to standing on lines at all.

One area that will be monitored is the use of the Spangler facilities by non-HBS customers, especially workers from the neighboring Genzyme and WGBH offices along Western Avenue, who often come to the campus for lunch.

Breslow noted that lunchtime profits at Spangler subsidize the dining operations across the campus at other times of the day, making him leery of discouraging any paying customers, but emphasized that the facility’s first commitment is to the HBS community. Still, like HBS staff members, Breslow said off-campus users tend to recognized the peaks and troughs in dining hall usage that coincide with class schedules, and tailor their usage to the down periods.

Meanwhile, members of the Class of 2002 generally are not likely to see much impact from the larger influx of first-years, as the staggered academic schedule keeps the two classes eating lunch at different times.