New Choices in Troy

Community college dining facility leaps into a new era.

FoodService Director - Hudson Valley Community CollegeA foodservice facility renovation at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y.—part of a larger campus center overhaul—has put an out-of-the-way foodservice outlet on customers’ foodservice map. The renovation accomplished a number of things, such as: the opening of a new student café, on September 12; implementation of exhibition cooking and new menu choices; elimination of a competing venue; and introduction of a debit card system that can be used in the café, food kiosks and a future coffee kiosk.

The operation that had previously used the space was totally gutted at the beginning of the year-long project. It had served food off a single line and was, as Chartwells’ director of food service Jim Husky recalls, fairly dated and definitely not customer-friendly.

Worse, the menu was limited, working off a simple grill and deli area. Chartwells took over the account in June 2004. “It wasn’t anything to speak of,” Husky notes.

Setting foot: The project involved implementation of up-to-date foodservice concepts as well as facilities components that manage or affect traffic flow in the building. “We had to overcome an enormous challenge in that the facility is located on the second floor, off the main traffic pattern of the college,” says foodservice consultant Tom MacDermott, FCSI, pres. of The Clarion Group in Kingston, NH. The facility was designed by Clarion Group vice pres. Angela Phelan and Joe Raymond, FCSI, of Raymond/Raymond Associates in Chester, N.Y.

Before the renovation, MacDermott says, less than 20% of the college’s population “ever set foot in the place.” One way to change that was to have the architects reconfigure a pair of stairways. “There are now two wide stairways that run directly from the lobby upstairs. Structurally we simply weren’t able to bring the cafeteria downstairs.” The staircases deposit students and faculty only feet from the café’s entrance.  

FoodService Director - Hudson Valley Community CollegeWhere the action is: “That often happens in dining facilities in schools,” says Phelan. “They drop them into basements, on upper floors and other odd places. So it has to be attractive, and it has to be something that they’ll want to go to. That was what was wrong in the first place. The food now is very action-oriented. The guys are cooking on the line, which is a curious and interesting thing for most people to watch. It’s not just seeing a hamburger [cooked].”

Another way to build foot traffic was to redirect lunch-time diners who had been frequenting a small fast-food operation on the lower level. It was removed and its menu of pizza, burgers and some other basic items was consolidated into the main café.

The new, foodcourt-style facility features nearly all to-order exhibition preparation of meals at the counter, including:

  • A pizza/pasta station, which serves six varieties of pizza, several pastas and sauces, and Italian entrees like chicken or veal parmigiana, and sausage and peppers.
  • A display cooking station, which offers an extensive selection of entrees like pasta primavera, shrimp scampi over rice and Asian stir-fries. There is also an omelet bar during lunch.
  • A grill area serving everything from grilled chicken breast to hamburgers, veggie burgers and daily specials like chicken breast with Canadian bacon and cheese.
  • A deli area offering many of the standard sub and deli meat combinations, with flavored baguettes substituted for sub rolls. Hot subs include chicken breast with peppers and hot meatballs. There are also several side salads, such as tortellini and caper.

Out of steam: “No ‘steam table’ food is served,” says MacDermott. “All hot meals are prepared to order at the exhibition cooking station or charbroiler. We’re focused on the nutrition and the beauty of food. I think that food is beautiful. I don’t think of it as a commodity, but as an enhancement to life. I think it should look that way as well as taste that way.”

The total cost of the kitchen’s equipment package, according to MacDermott, was about $800,000. The total price tag for the renovation was about $2 million.

The designers went out of their way to avoid steam tables, Phelan explains, “because I don’t think that steam table food appeals to anybody. We especially like the idea of people being able to see their food made in front of them. When it or anything is made early in the day and kept on a steam table it breaks down. It becomes much less desirable and much less attractive.”

MacDermott specifically opted for a charbroiler instead of the more common flat-topped grill. “You get a better burger, chicken sandwich or what have you off of a charbroiler,” he explains.

The layout is designed to accommodate a couple of thousand people—enrollment is about 12,000—per meal period. The café opens for breakfast, and lunch service lasts at least until late in the afternoon. The operation is staffed by a team of 13.

Beautiful food: College students “should have access to beautiful food,” Phelan believes. “Everybody should be able to know what a fresh asparagus or string bean looks like, and not have to live there through four years of school eating mysterious, unattractive vegetables.”

Atmosphere also plays a large part in the new dining experience. The renovation added a new dining room that extends out from the side of the campus center building, and has picture windows on three sides. “It’s really a very inviting place to be,” notes MacDermott. “What they’ve done is push the dining side of the building out over the quad so the kids have a much prettier vista and place to eat,” Phelan notes. “The whole idea was to make it as ‘retail’ as possible.”

The result, MacDermott says, is “a nice, wide open space that is more of a foodcourt than a conventional café. I spent the day there last [month], the day after it opened, and customers found it very easy to navigate. They seemed to enjoy it—particularly being able to direct how their meals are being prepared.”

The proprietary Ritazza Café and bakery kiosk in the Campus Center’s main lobby, as well as the kiosks in other buildings, will debut in January.

Revenue this year is projected at $1.4 million. Food cost, combined with the extensive catering program (an estimated 40% of revenue) is 38.2%. The average ring in the café is $3.81.

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
vegetables with dip foodservice healthy menu

From Mrs. Dash Foodservice.

There was a time when healthy food meant counting calories, omitting carbs, giving up sugar and going fat-free—in other words, it was all about deprivation.

But not anymore. Today’s definition of healthy means an overall focus on nutrition and wellness that doesn’t mean giving up enjoyment. It’s all about balance: good fats, healthy carbs, better sweeteners, wholesome ingredients and satisfying flavor enhancements. It means food that customers can feel good about, at the same time that they’re enjoying the dining experience.

According to...

Industry News & Opinion

Aramark today announced a partnership with celebrity chef and TV personality Cat Cora that will put a new concept from the Top Chef star in Aramark’s North American business-and-industry accounts.

The new fast-casual concept, called Olilo by Cat Cora, promises a healthy, made-your-way menu, according to the global foodservice provider.

“By bringing together Chef Cora's award-winning brand and healthy cooking advocacy and Aramark's commitment to enriching and nourishing the lives of the thousands of consumers we serve every day, we have an opportunity to elevate the on-site...

Industry News & Opinion

Members of Congress and several advocacy groups gathered on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to highlight the potential loss of millions in state funding because of a Child Nutrition Reauthorization block grant introduced last month, and to call upon legislators to squash the bill.

The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 houses a statute that would provide three unannounced pilot states with block grant funding. Participating states would be exempt from federal nutrition regulations and would no longer qualify for the 6-cent reimbursement per lunch garnered by certified...

Managing Your Business
hands coins banks

While the most obvious effect of the 2015 egg shortage was, well, a shortage of eggs, operators had another menu change to explain to diners: a price hike for the few eggs they were able to source.

“Our customers know what prices are like in the neighborhood and we don’t want them to feel gouged,” says Kevin Dorr, vice president of retail for Morrison Healthcare. “Unlike a restaurant, the people coming to our cafes are there several times per week, so they’re very aware of price changes.” Morrison had to increase its breakfast prices correspondingly, but Dorr says customers took...

FSD Resources