Two students eating in a cafeteria

king warrior Written by special contributor 

As you prepare for university, you might be wondering what the food is like on campus. Where can you eat? What kinds of food can you choose from? What if you are a light eater? What if you have a food allergy or follow a vegan diet?

To ease your anxiety and answer some of the more common questions we get asked about food on campus, we sat down with the best person to chat all things food with: Nicole Pin, Registered Dietitian with Waterloo’s Food Services.

So where does the food come from? And who’s back there in the kitchen?

From bringing the ingredients in, to prep and cooking, it’s all done by our team. Chef Javier Alarco, our executive chef, oversees our culinary team. This team is made up of highly skilled Red Seal chefs, including a designated chef for each of our residence dining halls. They have some really interesting work experience — check out their profiles.

Where can students use the meal plan?

Your meal plan can be used at any of the 24 Food Services locations across campus. Check out our full list of locations. It’s a common misconception that residence students can only use their meal plan in the dining hall, however, your meal plan is accepted at a variety of franchises, cafes, and vending services all over campus.

Students in cafeteria

If you run out of funds, you can always add more. If you have leftover funds, you can use them in your second, third, and fourth years — it always comes in handy for a coffee or snack! And if you have an off-campus meal plan, you have the same flexibility to use it across the campus as a traditional meal plan.

What would I see if I walked into the dining hall?

Dining halls are organized with diverse food stations, many of which are customizable and made to order.

Food being tossed in a frying pan

There’s an induction station at each residence that rotates on a weekly basis. Some features include curry, pasta, or stir fry.

While food stations differ slightly in each residence, you'll also find options like a grill for sandwiches and burgers, pizza, quesadillas, burritos, and even poke bowls. All of these are built-to-order and feature both plant-based and made without gluten options.

Our grill station serves a variety of options including chicken, beef, black bean, and Beyond Meat burgers! We have gluten-free buns and lettuce wraps, with an assortment of different toppings and sauces.

Each residence offers a four-week rotation of hot table dishes. These are more of your traditional hot entrées and include seasonal vegetables, grains, pasta, and proteins.

You'll also find carvery sandwiches at lunch and a traditional carvery meal with protein, starch, and vegetables, at dinner. These are chef-designed recipes and both the hot table and carvery features tend to be very popular.

And of course, you can't forget about the daily fresh salad bar with homemade mixed salads and a variety of fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits.

Both the salad bar and hot food areas are self-serve, meaning you can mix and match to create your own unique meal combination.

Our talented residence chefs love to craft special menus for holidays or theme nights such as Halloween Dinner, Lunar New Year, Valentine's Dinner, and more!

We post updates about upcoming events on our website and on our Instagram @uwaterloofood. There are also so many annual events like Cake Boss, Fired Up @ REV, and Cooking Shows that are interactive and free for students!


Curious about the food offerings available at the University College residences? Check out reason number two in 10 reasons to join a University College!

Is there spicy food available?

A lot of our dishes have east and south Asian flavour profiles — our chefs like to make their own spice blends. But heat is always a bit of a balancing act! We have a condiment station with different spices, flavourings, and hot sauces to add to your food as a way for students to customize to their spice preferences.

Is your food healthy?

Healthy means something different to everyone as each person has unique dietary and nutrition needs. Overall, our goal is for students to be able to make informed decisions, to feel good about what they’re choosing, and to know that there’s always options available for them.

We offer a variety of vegetables and fruits, grains and proteins in alignment with Health Canada's guidelines and offer suggestions for making Food Guide Friendly choices through our Fresh and Balanced program. Our goal is for students to make informed decisions, feel satisfied and nourish their bodies.

Food spread in cafeteria

Do students have to show up for set mealtimes?

Nope! Our halls are usually open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and you can go in and get food anytime. The hot tables are open at traditional mealtimes, because we want that food to be freshly made and hot when you come in to eat. But if you miss those windows, you can still choose from many of our other stations or grab something to go.

Students eating in cafeteria

What do you offer students with different dietary needs?

Food Services supports dietary needs on campus. We have made without dairy, made without gluten, halal, vegan and vegetarian options in all our residence eateries, and accommodate most common food allergens.  Please let us know if you have a food allergy or dietary restriction, we are always happy to help!

We offer introductions with the chefs for any students feeling a little unsure about the options available. It’s important that we maintain a relationship with any students who have a dietary need or are struggling to find options in the dining hall.

Everyone’s situation is unique. We offer dietitian and chef-led dining hall tours for any student who needs assistance locating options that suit their preferences or dietary needs.

Our team always wants you to feel welcome and comfortable dining on campus. We encourage students to share their menu ideas and feedback so we can continue to offer choices that suit our campus community.

Our mission

UW Food Services plays a key role in the student experience at the University of Waterloo and we want to ensure that this experience is a great one for everyone in the Waterloo community. We value our customers, their convenience, and their choice to choose the options that work for them. It is our mission to believe in and deliver these values in every action and decision we make.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us! 519-888-4567 (ext. 35270)




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