SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Wittenberg Dining Services Executive Chef/Production Manager Tom Glover chuckles when he thinks about the many comment cards he receives each school year, including a fascinating discussion about whether the ideal mealtime “nugget” is made of chicken or fish.
Wittenberg administrators, Sodexho, the independent contractor that operates Wittenberg’s dining services, and Glover pay close attention to such feedback. They have collectively responded to the changing food preferences and expectations of Wittenberg students by embarking on an overhaul of the Center Dining Room (CDR), the second step of a three-phase transformation of the dining areas in the Benham-Pence Student Center.
The first step was completed last winter when Post 95, a cutting-edge café-style dining area on the first floor of the student center, was formally opened on Jan. 25, 2005. That followed a two-month renovation of the area formerly known as the Commons, and it provided students an improved casual dining area with fresher food options surrounded by more inviting seating arrangements.
The strategy is similar in the CDR, the main student eating area located on the student center’s second floor, which was last renovated in 1988. An approximately $400,000 renovation is taking place, starting in the serving line area as Sodexho changes the design, freshens the color schemes, makes a wider variety of food options accessible on a daily basis and alters the entire layout by replacing the traditional entrance with a new entry area into the dining room to alleviate lines.
“The new servery will offer many more choices, and food preparation and presentation will also improve dramatically,” said Donna Picklesimer, Wittenberg’s director of business services. “The changes will make the space a more inviting place while also allowing us to better prepare and present the foods that today’s 18- to 20-year-olds expect and appreciate. Quality, nutrition and variety will be significantly improved.”
The phased renovations are a product of a working relationship between Wittenberg University and Sodexho. When finished, the renovations to the dining areas will become models for other universities across the country and serve as an example of opportunities available through strategic partnering and visioning. Post 95 is already considered a cutting-edge facility that other universities have already begun to emulate.
Post 95 is far more colorful than the former Commons dining room and it has dining options that are both more varied and fresh – a theme to be continued in the new and improved CDR. This summer’s renovations will include the same kind of trendy styling, colorful paint schemes on the walls and innovative lighting, but they will be more multi-functional, continuing to serve Wittenberg and the Springfield community for special programs, banquets and receptions. Aesthetics aside, it’s the menu that has Glover smiling from ear to ear.
“We hope to keep students interested in the food,” Glover said. “I’m really excited about the menu.”
Students will have several different serving stations to choose from on weekdays, including pizza, a grill for hamburgers and french fries, a secondary grilling area that will rotate a variety of eating options, a deli station, a red hot chef area that often will include a chef carving fresh meat, and a dessert station. On weekends, there will also be an omelette bar. In each case, Glover says the emphasis will be on freshly prepared food that is easily accessible to the patrons.
“There are going to be a lot more things cooked to order,” Glover said.
The renovations to the serving area should be completed by late July, in plenty of time for the start of the 2005-06 school year in August. Improvements to the seating area will take place during the Christmas break in December to complete the three-phase project.
Design aspects are managed by Dennis Karbach, project manager for Sodexho’s Campus Services division, in consultation with Chris Gray, regional executive chef with Sodexho, and Glover. The architect is Karen Beasley from Bellefontaine, Ohio, and the contractor is Bellefontaine-based Thomas & Marker, coordinated by Karl McCartney. Millwork will be performed by Mid-Atlantic Finishes of Allentown, Pa.
A Wittenberg committee that includes Dawn Henseler White, director of the student center, Mark DeVilbiss, director of student activities, Dave Nease, crafts superintendent, Picklesimer and Jonathan Scruggs, Wittenberg class of 2006 and president of Student Senate has been overseeing all of the renovations.
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