There is a truck in the middle of O’Donovan Hall.
The stray Volkswagen vehicle that sits outside Sazón, the “Latin-inspired” concept on the upper level of the hall, is just one of many marks of the ineffective Leo’s redesign. The renovated Leo’s has not only lost its familiar aesthetic but now also presents a new plethora of inconveniences to students. Moreover, it gives students less bang for their proverbial buck by deflating the value of a meal swipe through consistently smaller portions. Additionally, with its constant use of disposable containers and utensils, the redesigned Leo’s presents serious detriment to the environment.
The renovation of Leo’s ostensibly sought to improve the quality of the food and service, but appears to have been entirely misguided. Apparently motivated by a desire to make Leo’s more aesthetically pleasing rather than to meet the concerns of students, the redesign of Leo’s has resulted in an establishment that falters in some of the core functions of a dining hall.
Several of the changes at Leo’s seem to work directly against what should be the predominant mission of a college dining hall: convenience. In particular, the redesigned dining hall failed to mitigate its excessive wait times. Upstairs, the often long lines at the individual LEO MKT locations drive students downstairs to the Fresh Food Company. Yet even there, the near-absence of self-service options leads to unwieldy lines, longer wait times for food and often smaller portions — a problem that also dogs the upstairs locations, continuing to deflate the value of the meal swipe.
As recently as last year, this editorial board discussed the value gap of meal swipes — the amount of money a students pay per meal swipe when they purchase a meal plan is significantly greater than the value of what those meal swipes can purchase.
Yet, the smaller serving sizes found at both upstairs and downstairs locations only reduce the value that students receive for a meal swipe. The shrinking portions exacerbate the already absurd value gap, a disparity “as large as $8.67 per meal,” according to the calculations of the editorial board earlier this year.
Moreover, the aesthetic of the renovated Leo’s, which seems to be a central focus of the redesign, fail to connect with students as they were intended. The Volkswagen truck is just one aspect of the new layout that sacrifices precious seating space for an attempt at visual appeal. The staircase, which is evidently intended to act as additional seating, reaffirms the disconnect between designers’ intentions and the students’ wishes for convenience, adequate seating and the sense of familiarity granted by the old Leo’s.
“Hoya Hospitality was born out of the notion that institutional dining does not need to be institutional,” claims a promotional video released by the initiative over the summer. Yet the hall’s bare cement floors and generic environment — reminiscent of an airport terminal and lacking any aspect that is distinctly Georgetown — feel far more institutional than the atmosphere of old Leo’s.
Furthermore, one of the most egregious changes made to Leo’s is the consistent wasteful use of disposable boxes, cups and utensils upstairs at immense environmental detriment. Though signs in Leo’s tout its recycling initiatives, the decision to exclusively use disposable plates and utensils upstairs demonstrates an abject disregard for the environment.
Unfortunately, many of these aspects of the redesign are not reversible. Nevertheless, there are actionable steps that Hoya Hospitality can take to remedy several of these issues. For example, converting stations on the lower level to be self-service would help mitigate the long waits. Moreover, using reusable dishes on the upper floor would greatly diminish the dining hall’s harmful environmental effects.
To be clear, this critique is not an attack on the employees who work hard to keep Leo’s running. It is, of course, not their fault that the redesigned dining hall fails to meet the needs of the student body. The editorial board supports these individuals who work tirelessly to improve our Georgetown experiences.
Complaining about Leo’s is a time-honored tradition among Georgetown students. Yet, this fact should not mitigate the importance of the concerns about the efficiency, convenience and environmental detriments of the redesigned hall. Particularly because there is only one dining hall at Georgetown, the student body deserves a Leo’s that is able to meet its needs.