The room is packed and filled with noise. Students, chatting with friends, studying, and even playing trading card games occupy every seat. Everyone is eating what looks like a variety of freshly cooked meals, ranging from Chinese food to cheeseburgers, Italian food and fresh salads.
This is the scene every day at lunchtime in the Piazza, the collegeâ€™s main eatery, where students can not only get a freshly cooked meal, but other items one would find in a convenience store, such as energy drinks and candy.
Convenience is the main reason students pack into the Piazza each day for lunch, saving them the time it would take to walk from campus to any one of the many surrounding fast food restaurants.
â€œI like the Chinese food here,â€ said Gerald Henderson, a 18-year-old undecided student. â€œPlus, itâ€™s more convenient [staying on campus for lunch], instead of traveling out of the school and having to rush back to class.â€
â€œI usually eat here because itâ€™s close to my class,â€ said Carlton Mah, 20. â€œItâ€™s not necessarily better or cheaper than the other places around, but theyâ€™re not that bad considering that itâ€™s campus food.â€
â€œItâ€™s closer, but I feel like itâ€™s a lot more expensive to eat here than it is at any of the places outside,â€ said Linda Argueta.
The prices were the main complaint most students had about the food available in the Piazza, but when compared to all the other fast food restaurants around campus, they seem to all fall into the same price range.
For example, when comparing the price of a double cheeseburger combo â€“ which includes a 16 ounce drink and fries â€“ to its equivalent at the four major burger chains near campus: McDonalds, Jack in the Box, Carlâ€™s Jr., and Burger King, the Piazzaâ€™s combo seems to fall in the average. The Piazzaâ€™s double cheeseburger combo goes for $5.99, whereas McDonaldâ€™s Double Quarter Pounder with cheese combo costs $6.19, Jack in the Boxâ€™s Ultimate Cheeseburger combo costs $5.79, the Carlâ€™s Jr. Big Carl Combo prices at $6.09, and Burger Kingâ€™s Double Whopper combo takes the crown for the most costly combo at $6.39.
When it comes to the Chinese food served in the Piazza, possibly its most popular dishes, prices seem to be cheaper compared to the only competitor within walking distance, Panda Express. But the cheaper Chinese food means thereâ€™s less variety. A two-item combo served with rice or noodles in the Piazza is $5.99 compared to Panda Expressâ€™s two-item combo that goes for $6.29. But at the Piazza there are only four entrees offered, whereas at Panda Express there are 12 entrees to choose from.
However, the Piazza does have a big variety of pre-prepared meals ranging from pastries, Chinese food, boba drinks and freshly cut fruit. With so many choices and the convenience of being located on campus, itâ€™s easy to see why the place is packed at lunchtime.