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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Shake Smart meal exchanges draw long lines, wait times

File illustration by Lillian Ali
Students said that the best time to avoid waits at Shake Smart was to go either right at 8 a.m., or close to 4 p.m.

Shake Smart, located on the first floor of Norris University Center, is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and consistently draws long lines. But, during the hours between 11 am to 2 pm, the waits – and customers – seem to disappear.

Shake Smart opened in September, receiving praise from students for its shakes, acai bowls and sandwiches. The chain, which operates over 45 locations nationwide exclusively on college campuses, provides relatively healthy options compared to other popular meal exchange locations, such as MOD Pizza or Fran’s Cafe.

“It’s the closest thing we have to not-dining-hall food,” Communication freshman Hillary Altes said. 

That popularity, however, has led to significant wait times, most of which are due to the location’s unusual meal exchange structure, Altes and other students say. 

Shake Smart offers a meal exchange of a shake or bowl plus a sandwich or drink, options which include almost every item on the menu

However, the location only offers the exchange from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. At lunchtime, the same menu is available exclusively through dining dollars. Shake Smart is the only meal exchange location on campus to not offer exchanges during all of its hours of operation. 

Medill freshman Amelia Stone said she was shocked by the absence of a line when she entered the Shake Smart line during the dining dollar window. However, once she found out that she would have to pay with dining dollars, she canceled her order. 

“I appreciate that it’s here, but I do think that some improvements need to be made,” Stone said. 

Shake Smart isn’t the only smoothie location on campus. Protein Bar & Kitchen, located in the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion, offers a similar menu. However, students said Shake Smart’s offering of meal exchanges, as well as its central location, which Protein Bar does not offer, make it a favorite. 

In the minutes leading up to 2 p.m., lines reaching over 20 people can form as students wait for the transition from dining dollars to meal exchanges. 

“No one wants to use dining dollars on it when you could use a meal exchange,” Altes said, waiting in a 10-person line right before the exchange window opened. “They could fix this so easily.”

Others cited understaffing as a reason for the long waits. Weinberg sophomore Kaylin Nguyen said that the majority of the wait usually comes from a slow process at the register, rather than the actual time to make the smoothies. 

“I think if they had just one more person, it would definitely work better,” Nguyen said. 

Officials from Compass Group, NU’s food service contractor, did not respond to request for comment. Officials had previously told The Daily they monitor hours of operation, but have not specified the reason behind the restricted hours for meal exchanges. 

Stone said she believes that the waits have cooled since the fall quarter when Shake Smart was the “hot new thing.” And for others, the waits are worth it anyway.

“I absolutely love Shake Smart and swear by it being the best meal exchange on campus,” Weinberg freshman Sia Kusumgar said. “The lines are way too long, but I guess with something that good and popular, that’s inevitable.”

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