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Dining Halls Going Extinct? Students Seek Different Lifestyle

Trends in campus living show that today’s students want an experience different from Mom and Dad. The good news: Students are following Mom’s advice – they’re demanding their veggies.

Date: 5/2/2006 12:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre

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Dining halls are fading away, dining options are expanding and today’s residence halls include classrooms and recreation facilities. Not your dad’s dormitory.


In the College Planning and Management’s College Housing 2005 Special Report, a look at 53 of the nation’s university residence hall projects scheduled for completion in 2005 or 2006 found that only one in 20 (5.4 percent) will offer dining halls. The report found that one out of five of them will offer classrooms and 16 percent of the buildings will offer some sort of recreational facility. The 350,000 square-foot, $112.9 million University of Cincinnati Campus Recreation Center has it all with a 224-bed housing section that opened last fall, classrooms, a premiere fitness facility opening in February, dining options that include the award-winning CenterCourt, Stadium View Café and Zia Juice, plus the 24/7 convenience store, Market on Main – all in a magnificent new site on the pathway of the University of Cincinnati MainStreet corridor that blends living and learning on campus.

Later dining hours at CenterCourt Dining Center – UC’s newest residential restaurant in the Campus Recreation Center – address the UC|21 goals of establishing a sense of place through the MainStreet momentum of providing an active, thriving campus both day and night. The later dining hours also are in direct response to student comments about campus dining preferences. But even before the opening of CenterCourt, UC was a nationally recognized leader in its approach to campus food preparation. Last summer, MarketPointe at Siddall was honored by the National Association of College and University Food Services for its menu selection and quality service. The MarketPointe’s silver medal placed second only behind Harvard in the food preparation category.

In 2000, UC announced a seven-year contract with ARAMARK, one of the world’s leaders in food services at educational institutions. More than one million dollars was invested in 2000 to modernize antiquated equipment in UC’s older dining halls. The Siddall Dining Hall closed in spring, 2002 for $3.3 million in renovations that moved cooking stations to the main level of the facility. The point-of-service, display-style concept featured at MarketPointe first made UC a national leader in its approach to campus dining.

Omar Rayan, ARAMARK senior food service director, says MarketPointe at Siddall has been used as a national training site for university chefs and food service directors from around the nation. UC’s Campus Services reports the new Gold Medal-awarded CenterCourt raises the standards even higher with its heart-of-campus location, international cuisine, home-style selections, Mongolian Grill, brick oven for fresh-baked breads and specialty pizzas, vegan selections and the “Upper Cuts” feature that offers specialty items such as steak, lamb chops, prime rib or shrimp for an added fee.

A check on some other campus dining center projects in the planning stages or recently completed found the following trends in line with CenterCourt:

Going Vegan
A national ARAMARK poll of over 100,000 college students in 2004 found that 25 percent of those surveyed wanted vegan meals on campus – meals free of anything involving an animal, including meat, fish, poultry, dairy or honey. UC’s CenterCourt is the newest ARAMARK partnership to offer vegan and vegetarian selections. Staff was specially trained to inspect labels and properly separate ingredients during storage, preparation and service to protect against contact with animal-based products. Utensils are also designated as “for vegan only.”


Todd Duncan, director of UC Housing and Food Services, adds that food services previously has demonstrated its commitment to student needs through its fresh food concepts, providing special options for students with health issues such as diabetes and Celiac Disease, a condition that requires gluten-free diets.

Trends Reflected Among Other New Campus Dining Centers Nationally:

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)
Dan McDonald, assistant director for VCU Business Services, says the 2004 opening of the $18 million, 57,000 square-foot Shafer Court Dining Center was “a quantum leap and a very big change” in their design for Market 810, a residential dining center. The 800-seat dining center was designed with the look and feel of a retail establishment, he says, to underscore the quality of the food. On-site stations include vegetarian and vegan fare, salad bar, pizza and pasta, home-style offerings and Mongolian Grill. The facility was also designed around live entertainment areas, large screen TVs and projection systems and wireless Internet access. McDonald adds that Market 810 is also the university’s first dining facility to include commissioned art in the construction plan. The facility also follows the hours of operation more comparable to retail restaurants and is open from 7 a.m.-12 a.m. Monday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

University of Iowa
A $14.8 million renovation of Burge Hall and its old college cafeteria was an overhaul in the university’s approach to college dining. Von Stange, director of residence services, says it was a challenging project, as renovations took place while students continued to use the building. “We basically gutted the entire cafeteria and started over, expanding the seating of the facility and changing the entire dining service system.” Burge Marketplace opened in January 2005 after undergoing renovations for nearly two-and-a-half years. Its 11 different serving stations feature home cooking, international cuisine and the traditional grill for burgers. The restaurant serves as many as 3,000 meals for lunch and more than 6,500 meals daily . Burge Marketplace offers continuous service from 6:45 a.m.-7 p.m. during the week. “Our goal was to create an atmosphere of a nice restaurant, not a college cafeteria,” Stange says. “Based on the responses from the faculty, staff and students, we were quite successful.”

University of South Florida (USF)
Construction will begin in 2006 on a $35 million residence hall and residential dining facility, leading to three residence hall eateries on campus. Jeff Mack, assistant vice president for Business Services, says the first phase of the project – to include housing for 1,000 students – is expected to be completed in 2008, with future expansion of an additional 1,000 beds by 2010. While many of the plans for the dining center are still in the early stages, concepts do include point-of-display service and student input into a growing area of campus. Mack adds that the university is also part of a national trend in converting campuses into 24/7 environments with its Bulls Den Café in the Andros Center, offering dining hours of 11 a.m.-2 a.m. seven days a week. Mack adds USF also begins construction in 2006 on a new $45 million University Center that will complement residential dining and include many of the national trends in college food preparation.

New residence hall constriction at UCLA includes a boutique restaurant set to open this spring. The restaurant features Latin American and Asian cuisine. Connie Foster, associate director of dining services, says this restaurant construction is part of a housing project creating 2,000 additional bed spaces, as is the previously opened boutique restaurant, the Bruin Café. “The boutiques offer food that’s conveniently packaged to go or to eat at the location.” Foster adds that the boutiques, as well as weekday dining hours between 7 a.m.-2 a.m., address student demands for late-night dining, a variety of dining options, healthy choices and convenience.

East Carolina University
The $16.1 million West End Dining Hall, completed in March 2005, is a facility that serves residence halls and the general college population on the west side of campus. Food Service Director Joyce Sealey says the Mongolian Grill and the stone-brick oven are a big hit with the students. The eatery has the on-site cooking concept and a home cooking taste station where mashed potatoes and corn are popular comfort foods. Sealey says the salad bar is also a hit, and features a traditional salad bar on one side and a vegan salad bar on the other side. The eatery has wireless access, and regular student surveys keep staff up-to-date on student dining demands.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
On what was once a parking lot, construction started in 2003 on the Ram’s Head facility, a three-story parking deck that is topped by a 35,000 square-foot student recreation center, a dining facility and an open grass quad with a 300,000 gallon reserve that provides storm water management. The building is on the back end of the university’s football stadium. Mike Freeman, director of auxiliary services, says approximately $22 million of the construction project involved student dining, including the Ram’s Head Dining facility that features five different taste stations. The all-you-care-to-eat facility also has vegetarian and salad bar selections, a pizza and cold sub station with two pizza ovens, the “chop house” taste station with a featured entrée as well as burgers and hot dogs, and a dessert station with fresh selections from the bakery one floor below. The Ram’s Head Sports Café is another eatery and offers later dining hours through midnight weekdays and 1:30 a.m. on the weekends. The first floor of the facility has a 6,500 square-foot grocery store and the Ram’s Head Deli.

University of Michigan
This spring, the University of Michigan breaks ground on a $21 million, 700-seat, two-story dining center that will replace four outdated residence hall dining rooms. The Hill Dining Center, which will be connected to Mosher-Jordan Hall, is expected to be completed in autumn 2008. Alan Levy, director of housing public affairs, says the new facility will offer “considerably more extended hours and levels of service than our current facilities.” That includes multiple food stations such as a Mongolian grill and pizza brick oven, on-site food preparation and wireless Internet access.

Middlebury College
In 2005, Vermont’s Middlebury College opened the new $7 million Atwater Dining Hall, which offers display cooking and a hearth oven, as well as views of the town of Middlebury and the Green Mountains. Middlebury College Dining Services Director Matthew Biette said that although the hearth oven is traditionally used as a pizza oven, his staff will also use it to prepare a variety of ‘old world’ favorites, including stews, roasts and casseroles. The facility features four cooking platforms and two islands, and on the main level, there’s an exterior patio and fireplace. The building has a vegetative roof that was planted last spring with native Vermont plants to enhance insulation and reduce water runoff.


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