The 1950s-style jukebox in the new-and-improved Mashuda dining hall works all day long, never taking a break from playing tunes for the feasting students.
But there is no doubt in food service manager Karin Neumann’s mind that the staff has worked harder than the never-ceasing jukebox in the first few days Mashuda has been open.
An estimated $500,000 in renovations has completely transformed the Mashuda dining hall from a place seldom visited last year to a bumping 1950s-style diner. It serves made-to-order breakfast, burgers, Philly cheese steaks, and milkshakes while the Beach Boys and Aretha Franklin blast out of the speakers.
Improvements in Mashuda include new checkered flooring, new tables, painted walls and ‘50s décor to go along with the new grilling and food equipment.
The staff served 781 people Tuesday — the second day of being open — according to Kevin Gilligan, the residential dining operations manager at Mashuda.
That is higher than the average number of people that would attend Mashuda in a whole week last year, he said.
Students may have seen Gilligan serving up milkshakes during dinner Tuesday night, the most frantic time for the adjusting staff.
The staff served 300 students between 5 and 6 p.m. Tuesday before turning away others by warning of long wait times, Gilligan said.
That was the second straight day cashiers had to stop taking orders due to the higher-than-usual traffic, along with the staff adjusting to the high demand and new equipment.
Gilligan said he doesn’t anticipate turning students away in the future. As staff becomes more efficient with a new computer system for taking orders, the wait times should become shorter, he said.
Mashuda residents William Walkenhorst and Chris Fouche, both sophomores in the College of Engineering, said they ate at the diner Wednesday around 2 p.m. in order to avoid the big lunch and dinner rushes.
“It seems a million times better than how the café was last year,” Fouche said.
Todd Vicker, executive director of the Alumni Memorial Union, said he and Rick Arcuri, associate dean for administration of Residence Life, have acted as the “day to day liaisons” between high university officials and Sodexo. Both were instrumental in the installation of the new restaurant-style dining at Mashuda.
“This addition has been in the works for about five years,” Arcuri said. “It is the next step in a long-range plan between the university and Sodexo.”
Mashuda is the latest dining hall that has become part of the destination dining program, joining the AMU and Schroeder Hall to have the restaurant style.
Arcuri said the improvements come as a result of several years of feedback from students, including a Marquette Student Government recommendation last year that the university terminate its contract with Sodexo.
In addition to the new equipment, Gilligan said the staff includes many new faces who have had experience in the field of made-to-order food, hiring people from restaurants like George Webb and Denny’s.
Gilligan said Mashuda will be a good test to see how the university and Sodexo will move forward on other dining halls, with Straz Tower’s dining hall likely next up for major renovation and a destination style dining room.