Emory Dining is by no means perfect. It has its flaws just like all organizations and businesses do. Fortunately, the Food Advisory Committee at Emory (FACE) exists precisely to make the dining experience more enjoyable for those who call Emory home. FACE works to turn the feedback, ideas and suggestions received into tangible results.
Serving on this student-run committee for the past two-and-a-half years, I have helped convert student wishes into realities. When students requested snacks, fresh dairy products and frozen goods within easy reach, we worked with Emory Dining to create Eagle Convenience and Subs in the center of campus. We also left item suggestion cards at the front counter in the event that a student felt something integral was missing. Emory Dining pledged to regularly update the store’s inventory based on what FACE heard from students.
When students with classes concentrated around the Atwood Chemistry Building sought the option to grab coffee or a sandwich between class, Dining worked with Highland Bakery to set up the Coffee Lab.
Emory Dining’s team considers every idea we send their way. And nowhere is this more present than the newly renovated Depot.
I can assure you that years of thoughtful planning and scores of student ideas went into the full-service cafe now occupying the historic train station on Eagle Row. This was the opposite of an overnight decision made by “the Powers That Be.” Truthfully, I don’t even know who fits that bill, but my peer Zachary Issenberg seems to think they hold all the sway when it comes to changes on campus.
The current Depot was created thanks to the collaboration of FACE, Emory Dining, Kaldi’s Coffee and architecture firm Square Feet Studio, whose other projects include Atlanta favorites The General Muir and Barcelona Wine Bar. Students of all tastes and preferences weighed in on the final product at FACE dinners and through the Feedback Line, a real-time phone line that compiles student feedback and communicates the information to Dining.
To discredit the amount of thought put into actualizing the blueprints I reviewed last January is impudent. The Depot was renovated for and by the students. FACE and Emory community members drove nearly every decision made in reimagining The Depot.
Some of you are probably still wondering, “If we already have one Kaldi’s, why do we need another?”
In our efforts to improve The Depot, we never intended to sprinkle Emory with Kaldi’s cafes. But in the process of interviewing several independent restaurants, Kaldi’s overwhelmingly turned out to be the perfect fit.
No other group was willing to conform to the University’s minimum rate of pay — $12.08 per hour compared to Georgia’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour — as well as meet Emory’s stringent sustainability and food quality standards. They are fully committed to serving 100 percent fair trade coffees and teas, buying from local purveyors and cooking from scratch.
The Kaldi’s team also agreed to stay open until 2 a.m. every night, a condition students necessitated. Most importantly, though, Kaldi’s accepts and appreciates our input on their menu items and prices.
We took this potential and flexibility and made it grander thanks to the keen eye of Square Feet Studio. The new Depot boasts comfy booth seating and long communal tables suited for working. There is an area fit for coffeehouse performances, the sound system ready and waiting — just BYO instruments. The Wi-Fi service is about as good as EmoryUnplugged gets, and the dining area is filled with highly-demanded USB outlets.
If this space is not fit for student discussion, growth and success, I don’t know what is. In the two weeks since the renovated Depot opened, I have seen more students using the cafe for group projects and individual work than in the entire three years prior. Just like that, it has gone from the dimly lit, only-thing-open at 1 a.m. Depot to a legitimate campus spot.
I’ve walked in the new Depot to find Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair lunching with colleagues; friends have sent me photos enjoying the late-night chai French toast. This versatility is crucial for when the DUC is demolished to make way for the future Campus Life Center. When this happens, there will only be the Kaldi’s at the Depot and the Med School coffee kiosk.
What’s more, Kaldi’s has been the most extraordinary partner to the Emory community. Think back to unmemorable Coca-Cola Commons in its Dunkin’ Donuts days. When Kaldi’s came in, they transformed that sad space into a hangout, study spot fusion. Now it hosts events like that of TableTalk and the IDEAS Fellowship’s professors at Kaldi’s Getting Coffee.
Kaldi’s goal is to create the ultimate experience for Emory students and faculty. Last spring, in order to gauge student opinion on new menu items, the Kaldi’s executive team flew in from St. Louis to hold a tasting for the FACE board. The specific feedback we provided can now be seen in the warm pretzel bread and pimento cheese, the southern grilled cheese and nachos with coffee-white barbecue sauce.
In the last few days, the team has been testing different chicken finger recipes. Yes, you read that correctly: chicken fingers are coming back! The students spoke and largely felt they couldn’t live without chicken fingers on the late-night menu.
That’s Kaldi’s, which aims to make your day a little brighter and food a little tastier, in a nutshell.
I have to remember what my mom used to tell me: it’s impossible to please everyone. So if you have ideas or want to complain, be my guest. FACE is here to listen and hopefully help you out. But at least have the decency to make your criticisms constructive.