All-night dining options aren’t as crazy as they sound

Spencer Buckner

The Wendy’s on the first floor of Jester is more than just a Wendy’s: It’s a beacon of late-night regret and gut-busting four dollar meal deals. Wendy’s didn’t earn this responsibility. Rather, the responsibility was thrust upon it. Let’s be frank: Longhorns’ options for finding fulfilling food late at night are dreadfully limited —  especially if they are trying to spend dine-in dollars.  

Joshua Iwe, an electrical and computer engineering freshman, is all too familiar with the lack of late-night dining options. Like many students, Iwe finds himself in need of energy while studying until early in the morning. 

“I always end up going to Wendy’s or trying to salvage something from my room,” Iwe said about getting late-night food. “It would be nice to have something where I could spend dine-in dollars and not cash.” 

Why isn’t there a late night dining hall for students like Iwe? Rene Rodriguez, director of Housing and Dining Service on campus, explained that insufficient demand makes operating dining halls after typical hours impractical. 

“When we make decisions on hours, we have to concentrate on the 7,400 students that we rely on (for funds),” Rodriguez notes. “How many people are actually going to be eating at 2:00 a.m.? It wouldn’t be financially feasible.” 

So where can Longhorns turn if they’re unwilling to hit up Wendy’s or risk a late-night run on the Drag? 

With a 24-hour dining hall out of the question, Rodriguez was more open to keeping an on-campus market open past their current midnight closing time. Unlike our dining halls, Rodriguez noted that UT’s on-campus markets enjoy a strong demand even near their closing times — all the more reason to explore keeping them open later. Easy to staff and relatively inexpensive to operate, the path of least resistance for late-night health snacking then seems to be through our two on-campus markets.

Citing lack of employees and concern for student safety, however, Housing and Dining has no plans to keep either of our markets open into the early morning — even if the demand is there.

At the very least, UT should install a vending machine that serves sandwiches, salads and other healthy items in places like the Perry-Casteneda Library, where students studying at ungodly hours could get a meal’s worth of healthy sustenance. While UT is strict about new vending machines on campus, one of our current vendors already makes vending machines offering healthy options to paying customers. It wouldn’t take much to get a couple of those on campus and offer easier paths to shame-free late night grub. 

For Longhorns that never get off the grind, having more convenient and healthy options on campus for late-night dining could only be a good thing. The University has low-cost avenues it can take to make more options available. Wendy’s shouldn’t have a monopoly on students’ wallets. Longhorns are hungry for change. Let’s pick up our forks and knives and make it happen.

Buckner is a Plan II and journalism freshman from Austin.