Upon campus’s reopening for the Fall 2020 semester, social distancing will be heavily enforced in dining halls, according to plans released by University Communications and Marketing on June 17.

Richard Berlin, associate vice chancellor of Campus Enterprises, is the chair of the Campus Enterprises and Dining task force, oversees dining, retail stores and transportation and parking during the process of reopening campus. Dining is the largest portion of the task force’s responsibility, as all first-years are required to have a meal plan, and many other students opt for a meal plan as well. 

Dining halls will be physically reconfigured and have added regulations in order to allow for easier social distancing, according to Berlin, who offered several examples of upcoming change.

“For example, you won’t have to, necessarily, hand your card to an attendant to swipe your card for your meal if you go to a dining hall,” Berlin said. “You’ll just be able to kind of tap and go. We’re implementing technologies like that to avoid exchanging items of contact, like cards and so forth.” 

While people will still be able to eat inside a dining room, physical distance is a priority. 

“You’ll be able to sit with people, but the tables and chairs are six feet apart from each other,” Berlin said. “When you go into the dining room, there will be a staging of it and the lines will be very different.”

Other methods that will encourage social distancing include possible outdoor seating, cashless transactions and increased use of takeout options, such as Grubhub. 

“That’s gonna be an important part of service, so you can order ahead,” Berlin said. “We’ll let you know when your order is ready. Technology is for enhancing these things, so nobody is waiting in line, with people close together, to pick up their food.”

Berlin said campus eateries will implement more pre-packaged food and meals.

All-you-can-eat options and self-service have both been discontinued for the foreseeable future, according to the new plans, entitled Protecting The Pack, and Berlin.

“There won’t be anything that’s self-service, so we might have the salad bar, but the salad bar won’t be something that you build yourself, because we don’t want people touching the food,” Berlin said. 

Berlin stressed the need for a quick and efficient transaction process and a “more disciplined” approach to lines.

“We try to relieve congestion wherever we can with the dining experience,” Berlin said. 

Mask usage is another significant component to the reconfiguration of dining. As with all other public spaces on campus, masks are required in dining halls.

“The way that I’ve been describing it so far with masks would be: If you’re standing up, then you should have a mask on; if you’re sitting down, obviously you have to take your mask off to eat, but otherwise, if you get up to refill your drink or get up to get a dessert or something like that, students will need to put their masks back on,” Berlin said.

Safety concerns also extend to dining hall and Campus Enterprises staff. According to Berlin, the task force is using methods such as staggered schedules, along with the mask requirement, to limit employees’ exposure to one another. 

“All of our staff are wearing masks and gloves,” Berlin said. “They’re doing all of the things that they need to do to keep the food safe and keep each other safe. That’s one of the biggest things as well; we want to protect the students, but we have to protect our staff.” 

Dining menus will be streamlined and include only the more popular food items.

“We need to focus on speed of service, safety of service and getting people the most popular things that they really want,” Berlin said.

Despite plans for campus reopening being tentative, as the Protecting the Pack plan is subject to change as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Berlin is optimistic about the future of the dining experience at NC State.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie that goes on around food, so we’re trying to figure out ways to maintain a lot of those things, while first our concern is safety,” Berlin said. “We want to create a vibrant campus. We want to create these nice environments.”

He also encouraged students not to hesitate in selecting a meal plan, even though the Protecting the Pack plan may change in the future.

To stay up to date with news about campus’s reopening, visit the campus reactivation page on NC State’s website.