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Ready to feed thousands
GSU dining services offering more choices for students, visitors
W Biz Food services
Jeff Yawn, director of Eagle Dining Services, stands inside Landrum Dining Hall with Samantha Young, president of the GSU Student Government Association. - photo by JAMES HEALY/staff
      With the start of the Fall semester just around the corner, Georgia Southern University has become a beehive of activity as it readies itself for the onslaught of as many as 18,000 students.
       One Georgia Southern employee that is busy preparing his department for what is shaping up to be an incredibly busy year is Jeff Yawn, director of Eagle Dining Services, a division of the university's Auxiliary Services.
       "We have 12 different venues serving food which include our traditional cafeterias, our franchisees, delis, coffee shops, and a full service restaurant," Yawn said. "We also provide concessions for our larger sporting events, extensive catering services to the campus and our surrounding community, as well as the operation of vending machines around campus."
       Two new franchisee restaurants recently opened in Georgia Southern's new Centennial Place dorm complex - Cold Stone Creamery and Einstein Bros. Bagels. In addition to its venues in Centennial Place, Eagle Dining Services operates 10 additional food outlets in seven other buildings around campus.
       "We do cover quite a large area, and it keeps us very busy when school is in session," Yawn said. "People may not realize that we have approximately 50 to 60 full-time employees and 400 or so part-time employees of which many are students. When school is in, we will serve between 35,000 and 40,000 meals a week. Our hours of operation vary with each venue, but we try to make sure that we have options available to our students well before their classes begin on through the evening when classes are completed."
       Vernon Littles is the manager of both Cold Stone and Einstein. He said his crew has been gearing up since the new venues opened on July 23 and August 1 respectively.
       "We think that the students are really going to like both of these restaurants," he said. "We make everything from the bagels to the ice cream fresh every day. We are open seven days a week, and the public is certainly invited to come on campus to enjoy some ice cream or perhaps a bagel or sandwich. There are guest parking spots behind Landrum and on the weekends parking is pretty much open all around."
       The decision to the add Cold Stone and Einstein was the result of a newly revived relationship between the food services division and the Student Government Association that evolved last year.
       "When I was a senior marketing major last year, working for Eagle Dining Services, the decision was made that more student input was needed," said Allison Harper, who is now a full-time employee of Eagle Dining. "We initiated surveys and student comments, and conducted two focus groups to try and determine what students would most like to see go into Centennial Place."
       With the help of Samantha Young, the current president of the Student Government Association and former vice president of auxiliary affairs, the decision was made by Eagle Dining Services to open Einstein and Cold Stone.
       "My job last year as vice president was to work with Jeff, and try to build a relationship and a means by which students' concerns could be heard and their suggestions taken into account, and I must say that it is my feeling that we have certainly been able to do that," Young said. "They really want to address the students' needs and desires and I think everyone has been real pleased."
       One of the changes resulting from student input has been the addition of different dining plans that are conducive to the schedules of upper classmen.
       "Freshmen that are mandated to live on campus have different dining needs and schedules than upper classmen that may not be on campus for classes more than three days a week," Young said. "This flexibility has allowed those students to purchase a meal plan that is appropriate for their schedule. Students can use their meal plan cards at every single dining venue on campus. That is a big deal and isn't something that is available on every college campus."
       Yawn said that one of the ways his division has been able to stay on top of food service trends is its involvement with the National Association of College and University Food Service. "Peoples' taste and food trends are ever changing," he said. "On the other side the demands placed on food service in a challenging economy are increasing. We receive excellent suggestions from that organization, and actually were recently presented an award from them."
       Yawn said that there is a somewhat of a trend favoring smaller, more well known venues. "However, we continue to serve the majority of our students from our larger, more traditional facilities."
       Yawn said the food services division is primarily funded by revenue generated from the dining plans that students purchase. "The remainder of our funding comes from general transactions at our dining locations as well as catering events and concessions at athletic events."