On Friday, several of us at University Dining made a trip to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., to check out some new foodservice venues they recently opened to get some ideas of what we’d like to do in the new Talley Student Center and on Centennial Campus.
Our first stop was Jonah’s, a Culinary Emporium, which offered a variety of choices: carved turkey, pizza, lasagna, rotisserie chicken, burgers, salads and more. It also had a built-in C-Store with mostly food items, a grab-and-go section, and fresh produce. The produce looked pretty, but I asked how much of it is actually purchased. Turns out to be very little, but they pull from it for their menu creations which means that nothing goes bad. How green of them!
We were very impressed with the offerings, from the brick-oven pizzas (wish we could have one of those in the new Atrium, but NO FIRE IN THE LIBRARY!!, plus not enough space) to the plated items. They had a turbo oven that enabled them to quickly heat items instead of keeping it hot all the time (thus drying it out and creating waste if it sits too long).
The bakery case was hard to resist, but I had to ask: would our students pay $2.99 for a dessert? A challenge on college campuses is to provide great food at an affordable price…we have a lot of students paying their way (and trying to be good stewards of mom and dad’s money), so it’s a delicate balance.
Next, we visited Market 810, which also had marketplace-style “mini-restaurants.” It had about six stations. Through their meal exchange program (similar to our equivalency) you could exchange two meals for something extra special…on this particular day, they had crab legs. Holy mackerel!
I particularly enjoyed the comment wall…students were invited to comment in a public place, and the manager would reply, often with an entertaining response. It was comforting to know that, even in the nicest of dining locations, students still found things to comment on…anyway, I digress…
When the Atrium Food Court opens, it will be NC State’s first glimpse into the type of foodservice we are moving toward as we plan for Talley Student Center and new dining facilities on Centennial Campus. I know it’s a hassle to eat in a bubble, stand in long lines in a temporary serving area, and…here comes the worst part: do without Waffle Fries for a semester, but I promise you: it will all be worth it. Check out the photos on our Facebook page as this is the caliber of foodservice we have in store for NC State.