Last updated: 9/16/2020 @ 11:35 a.m. EST

Collegiate Dining's Response to COVID-19

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Given the rapidly changing environment surrounding COVID-19, NACUFS has gathered content shared via the Discussion List (DL) and complied them under subject headings. Continue to send items to the DL or email us.

This page will be updated on a continual basis. The following will guide NACUFS:

  1. NACUFS will review submissions to the Discussion List ("DL") and may post those related to COVID-19 on this webpage.
  2. All content posted to the webpage will be anonymous (unless you provide specific college or university content on letterhead or other branded materials being used by your institution).
  3. All college and university branded materials will be converted to PDF for posting on the webpage.
  4. NACUFS reserves the right to edit and/or modify the content for the purpose of clarity, grammar, and punctuation.
Please note that all information presented below was gathered after 4/27/20. For all previous information related to COVID-19 and collegiate dining, please reference our archived resource guide.

On-Campus Events

Preliminary plans for some of the typical fall semester events with social distancing measures, but these are subject to change; weddings scheduled but waiting to see what the future holds.



Charged staff to come up with ways to re-introduce ourselves to the campus when students return.

Servicing suites in football stadiums:

  • University provides all catering and no outside food is allowed.
  • All-suite orders are placed ahead of time with a set menu.
  • Contract with Aramark

Other options/considerations for catering include:

  • Offer packages for smaller gathering events with disposable items that can be dropped and go.


Touchless Environments
(see also Self Service)

  • Planning to go cashless in most of our venues, but not completely as that tends to alienate some of the population.
  • Contact-free swipes at entry points and go cashless/online ordering and payment for retail meal equivalents, etc.
  • Our students use a contactless reader for their cards and simply hold it up after "swiping" to show the cashier their picture. 
  • We are currently in the process of installing external magnetic stripe readers at the registers in all of our locations so the customers can swipe their own campus cards. Our credit card machines accept contactless payment through Google Pay, etc. If customers don’t use this option we’ll let them insert/remove their card and take their receipt.

Plexi Glass Protection

Be sure to check with your health department within your state before purchasing as approvals may be different in each state.

The following vendors may be able to provide some assistance:
  • Staples
  • Home Depot

Take-Home Meals

This topic is starting to be developed.

We started a program called “Take us Home” approximately a year ago.  Our goal was to provide family-style meals that faculty/staff and students could take and reheat without having to prepare anything themselves. We started with four fully composed meals we thought were going to be a huge hit.  

  • Once the majority of students left campus, we implemented a trial program geared to faculty/staff which allowed them to pre-order a dinner for four that they picked up from one of our locations.


Reservation Type Systems

  • Using a ticketing system and allow a certain number to reserve a time with only so many per 15-minute time period. By allowing them to reserve a time, they can decide what works with their schedule. (We’re looking at how well this will work with a full residential population.)
  • We have a Reservation Dining option two nights a week where residents can reserve a table in one of our dining centers and have a meal served to them (  The reservation form was created in-house, and we have considered using this form for our AYCTE dining centers this Fall.

Systems being explored or used by institutions:

Self Service
(see also Touchless Environments) 

Prior to COVID-19, we updated our AYCTE facility with new breathe guards so we could adjust from served to self-serve. The manufacturer is Versa Guard.

Our beverage machines are all touch. We will shut down that area and create a smaller area with a few touch-less machines and limit choices.

We have the student swipe themselves in and then pick up a plastic bag that we have preloaded with a disposable flatware pack, napkin, salt and pepper- we prepare them gloved. 

For their food they have choices of fresh hot or cold food items that are served- they tell us what they want- we put it into a to-go container, set it on the pickup platform and they are on their way- and they can put the items in their bag.

Installing plexiglass guards on the fountain soda units and handing guests cups one at a time. (All fountain units are activated when the cup presses against a long lever, so there are no push buttons.) If guests want a refill, they will need to get a new cup.

Retrofitting dispensers to be hands-free and including them in our frequently sanitized and disinfected “high touch areas”.

Other options/considerations for self-service include:

  • Single-sided salad bar which can be manned by an attendant.
  • Have a staff member man the beverage station.
  • Bottles and drinks that are in containers are used. Hot beverages are prepared and served.
  • All self-service items will be served or discontinued.
  • Provide the student with their own silverware that they are responsible for washing and reusing.
  • Hand them the prepackaged flatware on the food pick up area.
  • If you don't want to use disposables, you'll need to pre-wrap individual sets.
  • Look at how hospitals do it for isolation feedings – disposables, on the go entrees and sides, prewrapped utensils, half-pint milks and juices, portion-controlled condiments, canned or bottled beverages.
  • No personal reusable containers are allowed. Only single-service disposable cups.
  • Explore sensor-driven technology at fountain stations.
  • Equip open air coolers with signage to indicate to only take what you are going to purchase **verify with your health department**
  • Will have hand sanitizer available for use upon arrival and then use gloves to get their food and beverages.
  • Will have hand sanitizer stations next to all vending machines as well as signage as a reminder to sanitize before and after use.



Campus is budgeting 2,300 out of available 7,000 beds in residential dining plus only 25% of students on campus based on the driving factor of accessibility of classroom space, local area off campus housing concerns and distancing within housing.

We do not see any ability to have AYCTE; our model of service is looking at pick up and go as the first option, with very limited seating available until the County tells us otherwise. 

We are going to diligently enforce CDC guidelines within our walls (including potential lines to get into buildings) as risk mitigation more than social concerns.

We are working with our county for reopening and they may be required that we break students into small cohorts who are able to dine or be together.  Groups would be tied to how they are housed and could be as small as 3 people.   Reservation systems were one of the solutions for managing taking turns between doing takeout or dine in. 

Utilizing a people counter app to track density in dining facilities.

  • Heatmapping by BlueFox
  • Sensource
  • We created our own density measuring system by using swipe information and connecting an algorithm to add in a table-turning time metric for each hall.  We put the current live information up on our dining app.  It reports out with a percent number.  We validate the accuracy with spot checks.  Works well without cost after it's set up.
  • SafeCount Plus - - APIs allowing for integration to other systems such as digital signage or customer facing mobile applications.  Also, the APIs would give access to port data for added data  points of analytics.

Other options include:

  • Looking at these options – social distancing sit-downs/meal pickup and meal pickup only.
  • Reconfigured rooms to show tables with six feet distancing.
  • Adding an additional take-out site or two.
  • Reducing seating and/or offer smaller seating modules, High Boys, standing counters; all to reduce large gathering.
  • Utilize outdoor seating.
  • Exploring a reservation type program.
  • Takeout will be encouraged for retail and AYCTE operations by using an app.
  • Assigning dining times at lunch when the need for speed of service is a priority, no seating at that time.
  • Dinner limiting seating as mentioned using a color code chair system to ensure that we sanitize between seatings.
  • Breakfast - either get it with dinner service or set it up in the dorms.
  • Converting out cafes for only off-campus students using a remote ordering app.
  • Leveraging our in-house vending.
  • Exploring assigned seating or reserved seating.

Access to Dining Hall

Dining facilities are only open to dining staff and students, with notifications sent to staff and faculty they are not to attend meals.

Facilities are only to be accessed by students.

Limiting access this year to dining plan participants only – no groups – no guests, and staff. Evaluating the need to restrict hours for staff meals to ensure seating availability for students or to perhaps require staff to get their meals to go.

Faculty and staff will not be allowed to eat in the dining hall due to the limited nature of seating. They will be able to access the take out meals at our remote distribution sites away from the dining halls.

To reduce cross contact, our current plan is for the dining halls to be open for students only and the retail cafes to be open for faculty and staff.

Only allowing students from our residence halls in the dining room at this point. Nothing will be self-serve and they must wear a mask until they sit down at the table with their food.

At this time, we are restricting access to the dining halls to meal plan students only and dining staff members during their work hours.

Based upon the restrictions of the health department that impact seating and the levels of service, only meal plan students will be allowed to use the Dining Hall, at least to begin the semester. We will be implementing mobile ordering for our retail locations with the hope that this may allow the opportunity for faculty and staff to be able to use those locations. In addition, we are opening a temporary dining hall in a different building to help feed meal plan students, however those menu options will be much more limited. If business or capacity allow, this would be the first location that we may allow F/S to access, however that would not take place for the first two weeks.
Limiting access to the Resident Dining Rooms and Resident Dining Outposts to just students on the dining plan.
Faculty and staff will be able to access the take out options, but will not be able to make a reservation to dine in.


Reusable Containers

This topic is starting to develop.

Reusable containers will be washed similar to other dinnerware (consulted with health inspector and assuming appropriate protocol for soiled dinnerware washing is followed consistently.

We are using OZZi containers. The plan is to wash these at the end of the meal period – dirty side of the dishroom in full PPE (hat, mask, gloves, etc.) draining and re-filling the dish machine before AND after washing these particular items. Our dish machine is hot enough – based on current guidance – to facilitate suggested sanitation in this manner.

We have been advised that anyone handling dirty dishes that another person has used: is moving post-consumer food waste: or is moving waste that contains used gloves or face masks, MUST wear a full face shield in addition to a mask, gloves, hat and disposable apron or procedure coat.

Grab & Go

Labeling ingredients with all grab and go items; validated by our nutritionist.

Increasing mobile ordering capabilities, especially for our retail and current grab and go dining so we can save on label cost/remove need for labeling since its customized by the student.

We use Date Code Genie - from National Checking, for labelling utilising the mass import/export function to quickly bring in the data from our Menu Management System. We have found it reliable and popular with our Teams due to ease of use and being fairly inexpensive. It was quick to deploy and we connected them to Eduroam with no issues.

We label our grab and go but do not put a full nutrition panel, just the ingredients with the allergens noted. We use M&M label system.



  • Adding portable handwash stations and sanitizer stations.
  • Face masks will be adopted as a part of the uniform.
  • No outside bags are allowed to enter the dining facility to reduce contamination.
  • We also will have sanitizing stations throughout the seating areas.
  • Using Clorox Total 360 System campus wide to clean dining services, classrooms, residence halls and athletic facilities.
  • To address the equality issues, we are directing staff and students wishing to use cash to deposit the cash onto their ID card and then use their student ID card.


6 Feet Rule

There are two (2) definitions: 6’ from your shoulder or 6’ from the center of your body. We are using 6’ from your shoulder which makes the social distancing yield closer to 20% seating in the dining room (limitations on numbers who can be seated at tables depending on size) and greater distance in queuing.  We are anticipating that students will move chairs and we will have to maintain a presence in seating areas. We also will have sanitizing stations throughout the seating areas.

Using 13' circles to signify a person and we have about 10% seating capacity.  We're no longer considering in-house dining an option.

Our guidelines are no more than 6 people per table; 6 feet between tables, and at least 50% reduction in overall seating. We did a CAD drawing to place the tables 6 feet apart and had not achieved a 50% reduction in seating, so we continued to reduce the number of tables to achieve the 50% goal.

We will be using the 6 feet from the shoulder between guests as the goal is to compensate for the sneeze blast radius. Once we have done the layout, we will use the total number of seats available as the capacity for the dining room or seating section. This should provide us with two measures to try and control the students' behavior.  

We looked at our dining room, the tables we currently have and possible configurations. In one dining room, we reconfigured tables pushing two together to make squares that will seat four (4) within the guidelines. Booths for one (1) person and 10-foot rounds I think we have four (4).  Having room diagrams already available that we use for catering was a big help in giving us somewhere to start.


Cashless Transactions

  • Transitioning to cashless in the fall semester with anticipation of being totally cashless by spring 2021.

  • We are planning cashless for the dining program. We do plan to have a way for cash payments, but only on a very narrow exception basis since this will be new for our campus and there will be limited time to communicate this to our stakeholders. 

  • We are only going cashless everywhere while COVID is around. We have the campus funds that can be used at all venues in addition to meal plans and credit/debit cards. Campus has three to four reverse ATM machines in the Library. We also have two registers in the Bookstore that will accept cash to deposit on-campus funds card. Pre-COVID, the residential areas were approved to be cashless last year due to mostly meal plan transactions. 

  • We are cashless in our four (4) residential dining halls, not the retail operations.

  • Anyone affiliated with the university can add dining dollars to their campus ID, which is good at any location on campus; otherwise, guest cards are available in our dining office.

  • To address the equality issues, we are directing staff and students wishing to use cash to deposit the cash onto their ID card and then use their student ID card.


  • Increased signage on sanitation practices as well as communicating what we are doing to protect our students and employees.
  • Broader use of technology to support new initiatives.
  • Visual cues, vinyl’s, signage, tele-board messaging, text Ripple.

Employee Compensation:

Student Employee

For student employees who are no longer on campus, we are paying them through the end of the semester (and they are all away from campus). We calculated an average of hours worked for the last three pay periods before spring break and then paid that amount each week.

Paying them through the remainder of the semester.

Our campus immediately offered 128 hours of “Emergency Leave” to all employees, including students.  However, the actual amount is prorated by average weekly hours worked, so most of the students received approx. 40% of that 128 hours (if they averaged 15 hours of work per week this year prior to our closure).

Full-Time Hourly Employee

We have provided them with meaningful until May 1.  After May 1, they are “seasonally” laid off as all of our culinary employees are considered seasonal. 





Delivering meals to isolation beds using catering team. Two staff to start and possibly four if meals increase or catering ceases.  

The catering department has been asked to prepare and deliver meals to quarantined residence hall students. Some preliminary plans we are contemplating delivering two meals each day (lunch and dinner) with possibly some pre-packaged shelf-stable breakfast items delivered at dinner. The meals would probably have a hot or cold option and would need to be pre-ordered by a certain time of the day.

If students are quarantined, they order from our regular menu using our mobile food ordering app. We developed a sick menu for students who have the flue and plan to use it for COVID-19 students as well (but can also use the mobile food ordering app if they wish. The “Get Well Soon Box” contains:


Whether students have a meal plan or not we are providing them meals. If the individual does not have a meal plan, we are reporting it as a COVID-19 expense.  

Before an individual is placed in quarantine, we are urging them to return home if that is a plausible option.  

We are using GETfood (mobile-order-and-pay) for the meal solution.  The GETfood merchant for sequestered meals is open only to those needing this service.  There is a fee for these meals.  We are declining balance – so all meal plan options can be used to make these purchases.

We have leased mobile housing units (we call them the Mods) on campus and any student, on-campus or off-campus, who is COVID positive will be moved to the Mods for Isolation.  We will deliver meals to their door.

If a student is found to be COVID positive they will be moved to the Isolation housing and will have medical care brought to them.  For quarantine due to travel, or close contact, the plan is that most will quarantine in situ - in their rooms.  So our dining staff will be delivering meals to them in our 80+ residential buildings around campus.  We also have been asked to deliver meals to students on meal plans who live off campus.

We deliver twice a day: our delivery windows are brunch 11-1:30 and dinner 4:30-7 but that can change depending on how many deliveries we need to make.  They will order from our about-to-be-launched Transact Mobile Ordering app.

We too have re-purposed our catering team for the delivery operations, and will be recruiting others in the community to help with deliveries if the number per meal period exceeds 200.


Isolation/Quarantine Meal Delivery:


Feeding During Quarantine - Entire Residence Hall/Campus

  • When students returned to campus, they were all on quarantine. All residential dining and retail operations were closed. Meals were ordered online from a reduced menu; the meals were delivered to each door during specific windows of time. All disposables so nothing would be returned to dining.
  • We repurchased frozen meals to be stored at our vendors' warehouse and pre-made care packages with beverages in the event we cannot make food for our students. This is also accounting for your students to have access to a microwave.

Temperature Checks - Back to Work

Other Topics of Discussion

How is your institution addressing seating capacity for students who petition to stay on campus? Email us and let us know!

Virtual Town Halls

COVID-19 Resource Page (archived)

NACUFS' COVID-19 Polls & Results

ACC Guide

Datassential & NACUFS - C&U Dining Post-COVID (pdf)

Helpful External Resources

CDC Resources