Arts

Photo by Marta Kierkus

For the days when you can’t take another bite of cafeteria food, new options are just a short walk away.

As part of its $360-million expansion, the Rideau Centre dining hall opened Aug. 1 on the lower floor of the former Sears location. The new food court has tripled in size from the former location, with 850 seats—350 more than before—and 16 eateries.

The Rideau Centre had not been significantly changed in its 30-year history, and social media users reminisced about eating at the old food court over the years.

“I saw somebody on Twitter earlier talking about remembering French fries and first dates at our food court,” said Rideau Centre general manager Cindy Vanbuskirk.

“I wonder which was more memorable,” quipped Ivan Boulva of Cadillac Fairview.

In addition to traditional food court staples like Subway and A&W, the dining hall also brought in Canadian-owned vendors like Green Rebel, Amaya, Place Tevere, and MLTDWN.

The dining hall also has a hand-washing station, new washrooms, and charging stations for cell phones. “Come here, buy some lunch, plug in your phone, we’ll give you the juice for free,” said Vanburskirk.

It also features reusable dishware, glasses, and cutlery for each vendor, and a scullery dish-washing operation. The dishes are cleared off at collection stations and sorted for organic waste recycling in an effort to reduce waste.

At the University of Ottawa, compost receptacles are often found in kitchens rather than at every waste disposal unit. Outside of cafeterias, it isn’t feasible to have sorting stations with staff separating organic waste from trash and other recycling, and improperly sorted organic waste cannot be composted.

“Education is a huge problem,” said Jonathan Rausseo, sustainability development manager for the U of O’s Campus Sustainability Office. “People want to do the right thing but they don’t always know what the right thing is to do.”

The university plans to mirror the Rideau Centre dining hall setup when they build their own dining hall in the next couple years. For now they’re watching to see what does and doesn’t work at the shopping centre.

While the new setup significantly increases the diversion rate of compost and recyclables not ending up in landfills, Rausseo points out that the food court is still using disposable takeout containers. The U of O plans to implement a system where students will have reusable takeout containers they bring back to be cleaned out and used again.

Any new system needs to be easy to use, Rausseo said. “Go eat, have fun with your friends, study, don’t think about any of that stuff, then toss it and go.”

The former Rideau Centre food court has since been closed off to be renovated for the relocation of Shoppers Drug Mart and to create an access point to the Light Rail Transit station.

In the continuing expansion of the Rideau Centre, new flooring, ceilings, and lighting are currently being installed, as more retailers are being relocated. Nordstrom will open in March 2015 and the remainder of the expansion is slated to open on Aug. 1, 2016.