MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
In attempt to compete with dining options the civilian world offers, Marine Corps chow halls are moving toward a more customer-driven model, and this explains many features of the new chow hall at The Basic School.
“A lot of Marines came up and said, ‘We don’t want frozen pizza. We want fresh pizza,’” said Master Sgt. Matthew Detwiler, operations officer for Quantico’s Food Services Branch. So, unlike its predecessor in O’Bannon Hall, the new chow hall, located inside the brand-new Lopez Hall, has a fresh pizza station.
The eatery in O’Bannon Hall closed Friday, July 12, and the new chow hall opened the following Monday.
It also features a “Charleston Market”-themed station, much like the one created at nearby Maxam Hall late last year. And it has a fusion station that will rotate ethnicity each week. This first week is Italian.
Soon, the chow hall will also serve panini-style sandwiches and soft-serve ice cream.
“The menu was basically dictated by customer comment — what customers want,” Detwiler said, adding that the menus are flexible and can be altered again in the future.
Seating in the dining area, known as the Hanson Room, is up from 382 to 448, but perhaps more interesting is the new dine-out option: a takeout window will soon be open, serving a rotating set of options like paninis, pizza and sandwiches between meals for those who miss mealtime. Three to five items should be available between meals on any given day.
The chow hall shares the new building with the Hawkins Room, which doubles as both a Starbucks and a bar, with the Starbucks open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and the bar open from 4 to 10 p.m. The Hawkins Room opened when the building was dedicated June 27. It’s planned to have a wireless internet connection available. Also in Lopez Hall are a chapel and a VIP room for special events, and an area dedicated to Marine Corps Community Services will likely house a Subway restaurant.
Outdoor seating is available in front of the building, and O’Bannon Hall’s “tea garden” is being recreated with picnic tables in a grassy area by the dining room.
Lopez Hall has been under construction since fall of 2011, and it also includes energy-saving geothermal climate control, high-level insulation and LED lighting, said Andy Fuller, the TBS facility officer.
Detwiler said Food Services and Sodexo, the contractor that runs the chow halls, base many of their decisions on comments submitted through the base’s Interactive Customer Evaluation system and through regular surveys of patrons.
“Marines and sailors need to take the time and be engaged because they are being heard,” he said.
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