Cracking Open the IUS Cafeteria


Maho Sato

The cafeteria closed in the commons.

Chelsey Elswick

 After limited dining choices on campus for all of 2022, IUS students this semester have seen The Commons cafeteria reopen after a prolonged absence. 

“We are trying to offer more options for our campus community,” said Julie Ingram, head of IUS conferences and catering.  

The University Center cafeteria, which is staffed by student workers, is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays this semester; the neighboring Papa John’s pizza is closed those days and operates only Mondays and Thursdays. The Commons closes at 4 p.m., whereas the pizzeria does so an hour later.

“Unfortunately, we do not have enough staffing to operate both at the same time,” Ingram said. “We employ primarily a student workforce. We have not been successful finding students that have the availability we need.”

On a recent weekday, the most popular made-to-order foods from the cafeteria grill were chicken tenders ($6) and french fries ($3), Ingram said.  

The Commons currently has about 50 customers a day, with students making up about 80% of its customer base, Ingram said.

The dining spot, which for years was a bustling operation that attracted students and employees from all over campus, used to rotate its hot, cafeteria-style dishes daily throughout the week. Some seniors remember it as a gathering spot when they were first-year students. Back then, tables and chairs were filled with students – and a few employees – who hung out with friends there and also made new ones between classes. Students with off-campus jobs sometimes had a warm hot, economical meal at The Commons before hurrying to their evening shifts. 

The cafeteria shut down amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, The Commons has a fixed menu that’s posted inside where you can order your food beginning at 10:30 a.m. It includes hamburgers ($5.75), veggie burgers ($7), cheeseburgers ($6), and double cheeseburgers ($8). There are usually two choices for soup of the day ($2.95), whether it’s chicken noodle, vegetable, chili, or cheese broccoli. Mac and cheese ($1.75) is on the regular menu, but sides of vegetables are offered sometimes too.

The cafeteria is a cashless operation. It accepts credit cards, debit cards, Crimson Cards, Apple Pay, and Samsung Wallet as forms of payment. There is no minimum purchase required to use these cards or payment platforms.

Last semester, The Commons reopened several times as a popup operation for lunch as well as breakfast. Some students, especially those who didn’t attend IUS before March 2020, weren’t even aware that a dining space was behind a red wall marked “The Commons.” 

Ingram said that last semester’s breakfast experiment – which featured omelets, pancakes, bacon, and more – didn’t draw much business. “There were so few customers,” she said.

Elsewhere on weekdays, IUS still operates Subway sandwiches next to the library and University Grounds coffee shop behind the bookstore.