Pitt opens 25% of seating in dining locations


Carolyn Pallof | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt opened 25% of available seating in The Eatery at Market Central, The Perch, Einstein Bros. Bagels in Benedum and Posvar, Schenley Cafe, Cathedral Cafe and the Petersen Events Center Food Court last Monday.

By Millicent Watt, For The Pitt News

As temperatures are dropping, students now have the freedom to eat indoors at various dining locations around campus, something Nicolette Boyle appreciates.

“It definitely is nice now, because now it’s getting cold out so it’s hard to eat outside,” Boyle, a sophomore in the dental hygiene program, said. “And not everyone lives in the same dorm building, so when I want to frequently grab lunch with people who live in another building than I do, we’re forced to eat outside, whereas this is nice because this allows you to eat somewhere inside.”

Pitt opened 25% of available seating in The Eatery at Market Central, The Perch, Einstein Bros. Bagels in Benedum and Posvar, Schenley Cafe, Cathedral Cafe and the Petersen Events Center Food Court last Tuesday, according to University spokesperson Julie LaBar. This move comes after Pitt shifted to the Guarded Risk posture — the lowest of its three-tiered reopening system — last Monday. Most classes can be in person and some shared spaces opened under this posture as well.

Under the middle Elevated Risk posture, these locations didn’t have open seating. In this level, large gatherings had a 25 person maximum and most classes were virtual. Students also had to take out food from the dining halls and either brought their food outdoors or back to their residence halls to eat. The dining halls also had a number of safety protocols in the Elevated Risk phase to protect students and staff, such as frequent cleaning and sanitizing, social distancing and mask wearing as well as sanitizer stations available at each dining area.

Olivia Rosati, a first-year student on the pre-social work track, said Pitt opening dining hall seating was convenient for her because she now doesn’t have to carry her takeout food to her dorm room at the Residence Inn on Bigelow Boulevard.

“It’s a 20 to 25 minute walk from most places on campus, and [the Residence Inn] has a dining hall downstairs, but there’s no seating and there’s usually one option,” Rosati said. So it’s really nice to go to other places and be able to sit there and not have to take my food back on the shuttle and be cold or freeze trying to eat it outside.”

Students can’t just show up and expect a table at the largest dining halls on campus, though. LaBar said to dine in at The Eatery or The Perch, students are required to make reservations. She said new reservations are available for either two- or four-person tables every 20 minutes, and each student reservation will last for 30 minutes.

LaBar said reservations are “per person only,” meaning students can only make reservations for themselves and not friends. Students can make one reservation per meal period with a one-hour break between each reservation.

LaBar added that all the other locations won’t require a reservation and tables are “first come, first serve.” She said single seats as well as two- and four-person tables are available.

Boyle said she and a friend wanted to make a reservation at The Eatery out of curiosity and because of the poor weather.

“I went in there, we made the reservations. A lot of them were all booked up except for the 5:20 [p.m.] slot, so we decided to try it and just experience it and see what it was like,” she said. “It was also very cold and rainy that day, so we decided that it was a good time to experience indoor dining.”

To make a reservation at The Perch or The Eatery, LaBar said students must make a reservation for themselves via dineoncampus.com/pitt, or the Dine on Campus mobile app. Once on the site, students can make a reservation by choosing a location, date and time. Students are then sent a confirmation email with their information, which they will show to dining hall staff to grant access. Students don’t reserve a specific table, but must sit in a designated section specific to their reserved time.

On the app, students can press “eat,” then “make a reservation.” Like the website, the app will prompt students to pick a location, date and time, and students will then receive a confirmation email to show to staff members.

Boyle said making the reservation was easy and straightforward.

“We went there, and they had different sections for different times. We went in, we got our food and then we sat at a table,” Boyle said. “Someone asked to see our reservations and we showed it to them and then we sat down and ate real fast and left.”

As for COVID-19 safety, LaBar said masks are mandatory in the dining halls except while eating and drinking.

“It is important that while sitting at the location, you have your face covering on at all other times,” LaBar said.

LaBar said tables are cleaned and sanitized after each seating at The Eatery and The Perch, and in the other on-campus food locations, tables are sanitized every 30 minutes. She also said tables and chairs are spaced to allow for appropriate physical distancing.

Rosati said while eating at the William Pitt Union, staff sanitized the tables after she left with her friend.

“I know for a fact they’ve been cleaning them because I was eating in the William Pitt Union with my friend and as soon as we got up they cleaned everything,” Rosati said. “So I know they are, and there’s a bunch of people there that are always wiping things down so I’m confident in that sense.”

But Boyle said she thinks some of the tables weren’t sanitized or properly distanced at The Eatery.

“I personally haven’t seen them sanitize the tables and I still believe that the tables are too close together,” Boyle said. “I saw one group of people leave and I didn’t see them sanitize after.”

LaBar said if a student wants to sit at a table that wasn’t sanitized, they can ask a staff member for assistance. She also said staff members will follow all safety regulations as well such as safety training, wearing masks and regular temperature checks.

“Staff members have completed COVID-19 safety and sanitization protocol training and are required to follow all safety protocols, including face coverings and temperature checks,” LaBar said. “University dine-in protocols are subject to change based on the University’s operating posture and COVID-19 Medical Response Office guidance.”

Rosati said she thinks Pitt is doing a good job with enforcing coronavirus safety regulations, but it’s up to students to follow the rules.

“I think Pitt is doing a pretty good job, as long as people themselves are being careful and safe and following the protocols,” Rosati said, “Yes, they can enforce them, but they can’t make or be sure everyone is following them.”