Thousands of students gathered on Monday when VCU opened the much-anticipated IHOP Express in the bottom level of the Laurel and Grace parking deck.
According to Rebecca Jones a VCU Business Services, the Laurel Street dining center served approximately 2,800 students in its first day.
VCU’s grand-opening event also debuted Raising Cane’s and the new location of Croutons, Salads and Wraps.
VCU Dining Services hosted a grand-opening celebration at 1 p.m. with special attendance by local radio station, Hot 100.9. IHOP Express celebrated its opening by giving free coffee mugs to 100 customers.
Diners at IHOP and Raising Cane’s during this time could also enter to win free dining at either restaurant for a year.
While Dining Services was initially unsure about using dining blocks at the restaurants, all three facilities accept students’ meal swipes.
Croutons, Salads and Wraps accepts swipes throughout the day. Raising Cane’s accepts meal swipes from 5 p.m. until it closes at 11:30 p.m. IHOP Express accepts swipes from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and again from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m.
VCU is the first Aramark school in the country to go under contract with IHOP, whose collegiate operations differ from the normal national chain.
IHOP Express at VCU is not open 24 hours; instead it closes at 3 a.m. It also features a smaller menu and is meant to serve more diners in less time.
Since its opening, IHOP has been a Richmond trending topic on Twitter, but some students on the opening day felt like the excitement surrounding the restaurant negatively affected their first dining experience.
“At 10:30 on a Monday night, I had to wait an hour for two pancakes, some eggs and two strips of bacon,” freshman Marc Noronha said. “(That) is not what I call ‘Express.'”
Other freshmen appreciated the proximity of dining options, despite the initial crowds.
Although other restaurants, like Panera and Chipotle, are also close to freshman dorms, neither restaurant accepts meal swipes.
IHOP Express is open from 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 a.m. Croutons, Salads and Wraps and Raising Cane’s are open from 10:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m.
Photos by Chris Conway