Fran’s Cafe becomes ‘third space’ number three

Sammy Caiola

By day, the renovated Willard dining hall serves standard dining hall fare. But this year, after dark, it becomes Fran’s Cafe, a study lounge and snack spot for students.

Fran’s Cafe opened Sept. 21 as part of an administrative effort to create more “third spaces” on campus – areas where students can gather beyond class or residences. Lisa’s Cafe on North Campus and The Great Room, 610 Haven St., serve a similar function.

Katherine Bowers, assistant master of Willard, said students once considered Burger King the “unofficial third space of the south.” Now, students on South Campus can study and eat after dining hall hours without leaving campus.

A significant change from the dining hall food, Fran’s Cafe serves pub-like eats, including burgers, milkshakes and tater tots. It is open from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday.

While mostly Willard residents attend regular dining hall hours, students from across campus use Fran’s Cafe, said Habib Osman, operations manager for the cafe.

“We’re starting to see a lot of non-Willard students, even some kids from up north,” Osman said. “But it’s mostly the kids from around here that are becoming regulars.”

A new patio area that will operate during both Willard dining hall hours and Fran’s Cafe’s hours will be done by January.

“It’s great to have another venue open at two in the morning, but you haven’t seen anything yet,” University President Morton Schapiro said in a meeting with The Daily last month. “The patio is going to be another fabulous addition.”

Unlike dining halls, food at Fran’s Cafe must be purchased with cash or points.

Communication junior Derrick Clifton, who lives off campus, said Fran’s offers a more laid-back atmosphere than other dining locations on campus.

“The library is very stale and gray, but Norbucks is too noisy,” he said. “This is cozy and relaxing.”

The space has undergone other renovations as well. Willard dining hall’s signature buzzer system, used for the past four years, was re-vamped during summer construction.

“The old software wasn’t very responsive, and kids didn’t know how to use it,” Bowers said.

The lines are also shorter because ordering takes less time on the new system, she said.

In addition, the floor was retiled, the layout was changed and a C-Store, offering grab-and-go items, was added to complement both the dining hall and Fran’s Cafe.

The changes are creating a buzz on campus.

Zach Wichter, a Medill sophomore and the Associated Student Government Senator for Willard, said prior to Fran’s Cafe, Willard dining hall was primarily occupied by Willard residents.

“People aren’t quite as happy about the extra attention during dining hall hours,” Wichter said. “Now we have less seating and more outsiders.”

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