Contract - Rethinking Campus Foodservice Design

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Rethinking Campus Foodservice Design

06 March, 2014

-By Jennifer Johanson, AIA, IIDA



In a student’s—or, as the case may be, the parents’—search for the perfect college, the appearance of the cafeteria and other foodservice areas ranks high on the list of considerations. 
The cafeteria of decades past (think a drab sea of the same tables and chairs, and a kitchen mysteriously hidden away behind a servery) just won’t cut it for a generation of parents and kids accustomed to the Whole Foods Market approach, where freshness, variety, sustainability, and preparation are on display, even celebrated. At the same time, the school itself has a new set of considerations on the operational side. Places where students will want to hang out have to be included, and the spaces must be flexible to accommodate activities other than dining. These factors are changing foodservice design for the better.
With elevated tastes, students expect transparency, freshness, and sustainability. Increasingly, they are more socially and environmentally conscious, and want to know where their food is coming from. Many universities are located in small towns that may not have off-campus dining options, and/or students are required to live—and therefore, dine—on campus, so the schools are raising the bar on what the cafeteria must offer. Add to that the parents’ desire for their child to be well fed in a nurturing, home-like environment.

A food market rather than institutional cafeteria

For its foodservice projects, my firm, EDG, works with Bon Appétit Management, a company known for its farm-to-fork philosophy and emphasis on a local, sustainable approach 
to operating dining facilities. For such projects—among them Case Western Reserve University’s Leutner Commons and University of Portland’s Bauccio Commons—the solution 
has been to shine a spotlight on the food preparation experience itself. The cafeterias have more of a market feel, with various stations where chefs can prepare and customize dishes. Typically, this area includes stations for freshly prepared soup, salad, and sushi, as well as deli-style, grilled, and global dishes. Whenever possible, the stations are crafted from recycled, natural materials and feature environmental graphics that celebrate local, seasonal produce. Overall, the feel is vibrant and dynamic.
In designing these facilities, there is less of an emphasis on back-of-house kitchens and a greater focus on the interactive food stations. While designing around the food offerings is an exciting opportunity, we also need to be diligent about functionality on several levels. One of the essential considerations is timing. At many schools, students tend to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner within specific time frames, and that can result in a rush. With food stations, rather than a single servery, we can help solve the issue of long lines. But having an adequate amount of seating is still a challenge. One solution is to have an adjacent room that can serve as dining space or other purposes. At Case Western, for example, this type of space is separated from the cafeteria by a sliding glass door, and can function as an overflow dining or multi-purpose room. At off-peak times, it can be reserved for study groups and tutoring sessions.
As with EDG’s work on corporate campuses and with hotels, one of our challenges is to design for the availability of food service at off-peak times and making venues accessible and functional without keeping everything up and running. Food stations allow us to compartmentalize the offerings, so at off-peak times, students still have options. Conversely, we can better serve them during the peak hours. Most of these venues have a quick “grab-and-go” counter near the entrance for those who are in a hurry.

Comfortable, flexible seating and dining furniture

Cafeterias are being designed to appear less institutional and more like large-scale restaurants, so furniture selection is changing as well. Variety is key, as is flexibility. Communal tables, booths, banquettes, bar-height counters for solo diners, and standing-height tables are all considered in the mix of seating options. Outdoor patios that visually connect to the indoor cafeteria—such as at the University of Portland and University of Pennsylvania—are also becoming a more regular part of campus design. Above all, the mix of options allows for flexibility, and this is important because schools often reconfigure the spaces for events. Certain items, such 
as the booths, are fixed. But banquettes can be placed on casters, seating stacked, and tables rearranged. Lounge 
areas with soft seating and fireplaces offer comfort, and 
are becoming more prevalent at colleges and universities. When the facility is being used for an event, these lounges 
can be used as a pre-function space.
Cafeterias that look more like sophisticated food markets and bustling restaurants are a welcome change. 
But what can we expect in the future? With ever-evolving consumer needs and desires, we need to stay ahead of the curve so that schools can appeal to the next wave of students. Through our research, we are finding that more kids are going off to college already knowing how to cook, and yet they don’t have access to kitchens. Might there be a way that we can make kitchens accessible during off-hours?
Technology—particularly the way students pay for their meals—is improving, becoming more regularized, and will make a difference in the flow and use of space. Right now, most schools are still using point of sale systems linked to prepaid debit cards. But smartphone apps, still in the early stages of development, will ease the checkout process and give designers more flexibility with the layout. Lastly, our research shows a move towards the “boutiquing” of food service, which means that instead of one large cafeteria, we will see several smaller, restaurant-like venues on campuses. These are all just a few notches above what we are seeing 
now, which we can all agree is an improvement from the institutional, nondescript cafeterias of the past.

Jennifer Johanson, AIA, IIDA, is president and CEO of EDG 
Interior Architecture + Design, a 52-person design firm focused 
on restaurant concepts, interior design, and brand strategy, 
with offices in the San Francisco Bay area, Dallas, Bangkok, 
and Singapore. In business for more than 20 years, EDG’s clients include Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, 
and Marriott.




Rethinking Campus Foodservice Design

06 March, 2014


In a student’s—or, as the case may be, the parents’—search for the perfect college, the appearance of the cafeteria and other foodservice areas ranks high on the list of considerations. 
The cafeteria of decades past (think a drab sea of the same tables and chairs, and a kitchen mysteriously hidden away behind a servery) just won’t cut it for a generation of parents and kids accustomed to the Whole Foods Market approach, where freshness, variety, sustainability, and preparation are on display, even celebrated. At the same time, the school itself has a new set of considerations on the operational side. Places where students will want to hang out have to be included, and the spaces must be flexible to accommodate activities other than dining. These factors are changing foodservice design for the better.
With elevated tastes, students expect transparency, freshness, and sustainability. Increasingly, they are more socially and environmentally conscious, and want to know where their food is coming from. Many universities are located in small towns that may not have off-campus dining options, and/or students are required to live—and therefore, dine—on campus, so the schools are raising the bar on what the cafeteria must offer. Add to that the parents’ desire for their child to be well fed in a nurturing, home-like environment.

A food market rather than institutional cafeteria

For its foodservice projects, my firm, EDG, works with Bon Appétit Management, a company known for its farm-to-fork philosophy and emphasis on a local, sustainable approach 
to operating dining facilities. For such projects—among them Case Western Reserve University’s Leutner Commons and University of Portland’s Bauccio Commons—the solution 
has been to shine a spotlight on the food preparation experience itself. The cafeterias have more of a market feel, with various stations where chefs can prepare and customize dishes. Typically, this area includes stations for freshly prepared soup, salad, and sushi, as well as deli-style, grilled, and global dishes. Whenever possible, the stations are crafted from recycled, natural materials and feature environmental graphics that celebrate local, seasonal produce. Overall, the feel is vibrant and dynamic.
In designing these facilities, there is less of an emphasis on back-of-house kitchens and a greater focus on the interactive food stations. While designing around the food offerings is an exciting opportunity, we also need to be diligent about functionality on several levels. One of the essential considerations is timing. At many schools, students tend to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner within specific time frames, and that can result in a rush. With food stations, rather than a single servery, we can help solve the issue of long lines. But having an adequate amount of seating is still a challenge. One solution is to have an adjacent room that can serve as dining space or other purposes. At Case Western, for example, this type of space is separated from the cafeteria by a sliding glass door, and can function as an overflow dining or multi-purpose room. At off-peak times, it can be reserved for study groups and tutoring sessions.
As with EDG’s work on corporate campuses and with hotels, one of our challenges is to design for the availability of food service at off-peak times and making venues accessible and functional without keeping everything up and running. Food stations allow us to compartmentalize the offerings, so at off-peak times, students still have options. Conversely, we can better serve them during the peak hours. Most of these venues have a quick “grab-and-go” counter near the entrance for those who are in a hurry.

Comfortable, flexible seating and dining furniture

Cafeterias are being designed to appear less institutional and more like large-scale restaurants, so furniture selection is changing as well. Variety is key, as is flexibility. Communal tables, booths, banquettes, bar-height counters for solo diners, and standing-height tables are all considered in the mix of seating options. Outdoor patios that visually connect to the indoor cafeteria—such as at the University of Portland and University of Pennsylvania—are also becoming a more regular part of campus design. Above all, the mix of options allows for flexibility, and this is important because schools often reconfigure the spaces for events. Certain items, such 
as the booths, are fixed. But banquettes can be placed on casters, seating stacked, and tables rearranged. Lounge 
areas with soft seating and fireplaces offer comfort, and 
are becoming more prevalent at colleges and universities. When the facility is being used for an event, these lounges 
can be used as a pre-function space.
Cafeterias that look more like sophisticated food markets and bustling restaurants are a welcome change. 
But what can we expect in the future? With ever-evolving consumer needs and desires, we need to stay ahead of the curve so that schools can appeal to the next wave of students. Through our research, we are finding that more kids are going off to college already knowing how to cook, and yet they don’t have access to kitchens. Might there be a way that we can make kitchens accessible during off-hours?
Technology—particularly the way students pay for their meals—is improving, becoming more regularized, and will make a difference in the flow and use of space. Right now, most schools are still using point of sale systems linked to prepaid debit cards. But smartphone apps, still in the early stages of development, will ease the checkout process and give designers more flexibility with the layout. Lastly, our research shows a move towards the “boutiquing” of food service, which means that instead of one large cafeteria, we will see several smaller, restaurant-like venues on campuses. These are all just a few notches above what we are seeing 
now, which we can all agree is an improvement from the institutional, nondescript cafeterias of the past.

Jennifer Johanson, AIA, IIDA, is president and CEO of EDG 
Interior Architecture + Design, a 52-person design firm focused 
on restaurant concepts, interior design, and brand strategy, 
with offices in the San Francisco Bay area, Dallas, Bangkok, 
and Singapore. In business for more than 20 years, EDG’s clients include Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, 
and Marriott.

 


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