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Piling In and Hoping to Pile Up at the Viking Marketplace

Feb. 17, 2011

By Derek Amrich

The recipe for success as a student at Cleveland State University calls for a balance of work and play. The chaotic schedules that students keep work up an appetite for down-time with friends. Lucky for CSU students, the Viking Marketplace serves up the perfect portion of the college lifestyle.

In the past, Viking Marketplace struggled to reach the large commuter-based population of Cleveland State University when it was located in Viking Hall. CSU revived its “pulse on dining” when Dining Services was given valued Innerlink positioning on the 2nd floor of the Student Center. The $500 million home to student organizations and activities opened for the fall 2010 semester and food fanciers have responded in number to the new locality.

Director of Dining Services Jim Razzante credits the increased foot traffic to the growing popularity of the Viking Marketplace.

“We have a few more people on the meal plans this year,” said Razzante. “But the biggest change is in our cash business. It’s more of a retail operation choice during lunchtime than we had last year in Viking Hall.”

Maintaining close proximity and access to the students that live on campus, the move helped reach the full population of students, faculty and staff that has grown to nearly 20,000.

“We average about 1,400 people during the week, weekends anywhere from 500 to 550,” said Razzante. “We have increased 200 to 300 people per day from last year.”
Resident students utilize the Viking Marketplace for social aspects as well as the dining functions of the cafeteria.

“It’s a great place to get together with friends and classmates,” said Emran Hittah, graduate student in Industrial Engineering. “They open at 7:30 a.m. and stay open until 10:00 p.m. They stay open all day.”

The menu features daily changing items served buffet style at three main stations, Mongolian, the Grille, and the Hearth Stone Oven. The wide range of offerings include special preparations for every course offered for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Regular deli items, soups, salads and desert bars fill out a well balanced meal prepared and maintained with care by the attentive staff of 50.

“It’s a better variety and better quality of food,” said Marissa Hyde, senior in English and Creative Writing. “I lived over at Viking Hall, and I loved living at Viking Hall, but I got real tired of eating french fries and pizza all the time.”

The flexibility of the buffet-style service ensures quick service to those facing a time crunch.

“You don’t have to wait for service, you can adjust it to your schedule,” said Jae-Won Lee, professor emeritus in the school of communication. “Sometimes you only have 10 minutes, other times you have a half-hour, that’s what I like.”

Menu planning, in large part, is a result of feedback from dishes that have been successful in the past and surveys conducted to give new ideas. Surveys can be filled out in person at the Marketplace or online at the CSU website.

“What we do with our cycle menu is we look at what we go through the most of and what’s not selling,” said Razzante. “We switched the menu for this semester based on what we did last semester. We saw that there were some options that really weren’t going that well so we took them off.”

One option that was available at the Viking Marketplace that was lost in the move, and has been brought to the attention of Student Government, is the carry-out dining option.

“We introduced carry out at Viking Hall because we did not have the capacity to service all the people that were on the meal plans,” said Razzante. “When they were planning the new Student Center we increased the capacity to about 300 seats, which is a lot more than we had before. We didn’t need to offer that carry-out option because there was enough seats to take care of the problem.”

Students voiced the issue to the Office of Campus Support Services prior to winter break. Campus Support Services turned to Shauna Jackson, SGA vice president for assistance, who took the responsibility of drafting a petition on behalf of the students.

“There’s 300 signatures, a vast majority are residents, so you’re talking about 30 percent of the resident population saying ‘We paid for food plans, we want to-go containers,’” said Jackson. “We just wanted to know why they had to-go containers in Viking Hall and now they don’t.”