Twice so far, I've gone to the nearby all-you-care-to-eat eatery for a Friday lunch, with a few coworkers, and have been pretty impressed. It helps that staff can sign up for a debit card system (you put funds on your staff ID card) that offers those all-you-can-stuff-your-face-with lunches for just $6.
I still suffer from the illusion that lunch is supposed to be $5, an illusion carried along in part by things like Subway's $5 footlong and "lunch specials" at pizza places, etc., but honestly, $6 is an incredible deal for unlimited food of pretty good variety and quality. Even with some of the stations closed for the summer, I'm finding I can build myself a huge salad, get pasta with multiple sauce and topping options, have some pizza, get a chicken sandwich or a burger from the grill station, pick up some Asian food or today's hot entrees, or even just have a bowl of cereal. The first time I was very good about eating a reasonable amount, and the second time I only overdid it a little. I think I could be pretty good about mostly having a huge salad followed by a small array of other things, and not overeat too often. Also, I admit this might become a much less appealing option once all the students are back and the place is packed even at my later-than-usual lunchtime (typically 1ish or a little later).
But it felt especially affordable compared to today's outing. I wanted to try the convenience store and grill in the same building, and by coincidence, ran into the Dining director on the way over. She handed me a couple of $5-off coupons, so I splurged a little. Well, the "burger of the week" plus fries and a fountain drink ended up north of $10! Good thing I had that coupon. It was a good lunch, but it was not by any stretch of the imagination a good deal. I'm sure I'd also spend north of $10 on a similar combination at Five Guys or Ithaca Ale House, but I'd also be getting more (and better) for my money.
The director spotted me later and asked how it was, and I told her it was delicious (and thanked her), but I understood why they weren't seeing great sales in those retail units: you can spend a lot for the convenience of being able to take your food to go, which of course you can't do at the all-you-can-eat units. Of course, students are charged more than $6 per lunch (I think), but for those who don't have a meal plan, these retail operations need to seem like a decent deal. I suggested they could try combo deals, which the place near my former office did sometimes. She seemed to appreciate the feedback.
I've got one more coupon to try another retail eatery on campus; I'll try one I've never been to, or at least haven't been to in years. Too easy to go to the ones that are familiar from my years in CIT.