Since the start of the Fall 2020 school year, the Cellar has moved to become a take-out-only restaurant. Although first years have no point of reference, 11-year Cellar manager Melissa Comstock has seen the establishment adapt drastically to the pandemic times.
“Since moving to the Grubhub platform and Covid[-19] we have been navigating many new procedures and processes,” Comstock wrote in an email to The Collegian.
The Cellar has always been a busy takeout business, Comstock wrote, but Grubhub shifted how takeout works. Now students can order food through Grubhub, which lowers the amount of people who order in person.
Additional hirings have also been made to keep up with the increased demand of to-go orders, Comstock wrote. Cellar staff directed all interview requests to Comstock.
The Cellar features some new menu items this year, including milkshakes and pizza. The addition and subtraction of menu items is driven by analytics on how each item sells, or doesn’t sell, Comstock wrote.
“We use reports to determine slow-selling items, remove them and replace them,” Comstock wrote. “We work hard to offer items that students will like. The Cellar tries to work as an inclusive team on the menu.”
Though Comstock and co-manager Richard Thomas are thrilled with their increase in sales over last year, they miss the environment of the Cellar’s bar, she wrote.
Seniors do too.
“For me, the Cellar was a very social place,” senior Cord Fox said, referring to the Cellar before the pandemic. “I’d go there with my friends and get a bunch of tables and kind of walk around to all the different tables. You can’t do that now with coronavirus, everything is very restrictive.”
For Fox, the worst part of The Cellar’s indoor dining closure has been no Cellar Wednesdays, he said. Before the pandemic, of-age students were able to order beer and wine from the Cellar bar. Especially on Wednesdays, people would go to the Cellar, show their ID, get a wristband and enjoy drinks with friends.
“You [could] go in, get a beer with all your friends,” Fox said. “It’s a good fun social scene that’s been missed this year.”
The Cellar burger, pesto chicken panini, and egg rolls have long been his staples, Fox said, but he misses the loaded fries the Cellar used to offer. He said they were a favorite to share among friends.
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Fox’s first year was the peak of his Cellar dining, he said.
“I didn’t have a car and couldn’t travel off-campus much,” he said, referring to his first year at UR. “The Cellar was a nice way to get a different meal that wasn’t the dining hall. Sophomore year was kind of the same thing. I would also go with my friends to watch Thursday Night Football.”
Now that the Cellar is takeout only, Fox does not go much, he said. He has only been a couple times since last semester.
On the contrary, Cellar is a go-to spot for current first-years.
First-year Libby Schmelzer said she and her friends get takeout from The Cellar a couple of times a week because of its convenience and menu variety.
They use Grubhub to order and then eat in their rooms, Schmelzer said.
“It usually takes a decent amount of time compared to other options, but not too bad since we can order it in advance,” Schmelzer said.
Buffalo chicken dip is the group’s favorite, followed closely by mac and cheese bites, she said.
First-year Greta Gordon goes to The Cellar about once a week, but said that a lot of people she knows go more often. The weekends are the most popular times to go, Gordon said.
“Freshmen think of The Cellar as a good place for late-night food or weekend food, when you want the greasy fast food that you can only really get at The Cellar,” Gordon said.
The items Gordon and her friends enjoy most include mozzarella sticks, fries and mac and cheese bites; all the sides are really popular, Gordon said.
The tortellini from last semester was another favorite that is now gone, Gordon said, but the new pasta menu item made up for it.
The dream is to eventually have inside seating as the restaurant did before the pandemic, Schmelzer, Gordon, Comstock and Fox all said.
“I hope eventually we can get back to a place where everyone can hang out,” Fox said. “It’s always been a fun spot, I hope we can get back to that and have a good time.”
Contact contributor Staton Whaley at email@example.com.
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