Restaurants near campus prepare for UA commencement craziness

Restaurants near campus prepare for UA commencement craziness

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Commencement is here for the University of Arizona's class of 2018 and the crowds are building the closer you get to campus.

But are those buildings prepared for the crowds?

Open your ears and follow your nose and you'll hear and smell the cooking commence at nearby restaurants in Main Gate Square, on University Boulevard, west of campus.

They're already in a frying frenzy at The Dutch Eatery & Refuge, which is on the corner of University and Park.

"I think they're just looking for good, quality food," said server Amber Wagner. "A moment to relax and not have to worry about anything but enjoying a good meal."

Thousands of graduating students will welcome their families and friends for a weekend of festivities on campus. They are celebrating a college career full of lessons learned.

Marcus Van Winden, chef and owner of The Dutch Eatery & Refuge, has learned lessons, too.

"That was just insane," he said, talking about the scene at his restaurant last year.

Van Winden and his wife Nicole opened the restaurant around graduation time in May 2017. He got a first taste of the madness and said he was a bit unprepared for the commencement craziness.

Now, he's a year wiser.

"We now take reservations," he said. "We didn't really have a reservation system in place at that point. A lot of pre-planning, I have to say."

He's booked full most of Thursday night, Friday, Saturday, and Mother's Day. Yet, even his staff aren't sure what to expect.

"It's just a little unpredictable," said Wagner, talking about the location of the restaurant.

"It's the most erratic location that I've run a business in," Van Winden explained. "One day it could be empty. The next day it could be full without any reason."

Foot traffic is at an all-time high, but could be shaken up entirely once the weekend is over. Students leaving Tucson means thousands of fewer customers.

For Van Winden, it means a different clientele of professors and residents.

Van Winden said he has tripled his staff for the next few days in preparation for the turnout.

He also said they've ordered what is normally two weeks worth of food and expect to go through it all of it.

"There's a lot at stake for us," he said.

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