A new definition of gluten-free dining

prentice cafe welcome

The decision to build one of the first gluten-free dining halls started with a booth at Kent State University’s summer orientation in Kent, Ohio. Each year, the dining department sets up a table to answer questions from incoming freshmen. In increasing numbers, Kent’s dietitian was flooded with queries about food options for gluten-intolerant students.

“For a handful of students, this is life or death,” says Richard Roldan, director of dining services. “The fear in their eyes that this could harm them was a reality check for us.”

It was these conversations with a spectrum of students that pushed Roldan and his team to go beyond the gluten-free stations in the dining halls and create a guaranteed safe haven. This summer, dining services kicked off the project by renovating Kent’s Prentice Cafe, pressure washing, and sanitizing and steaming every piece of equipment. However, constructing an entirely gluten-free oasis wasn’t as simple as cleaning the space and banning bagels and other wheat byproducts—it meant installing a whole new protocol for doing business, including these three rules.

1. Keeping uniforms clean

prentice employee uniforms

Workers cannot take their uniforms home, because they might return carrying a contaminant. During shift change, employees leave their uniforms in locker rooms that were part of the facility’s original structure and change into their street clothes to preserve the space.

2. No outside food

prentice students food

At other dining halls, students often bring in outside food to dine with their friends. “Our biggest thing was to get the message out to students coming in that this was a gluten-free area, and everything coming in has to be gluten-free,” Roldan says. At the entrance to Prentice, large eye-grabbing signage explains the guidelines of the gluten-free zone. In addition, Roldan and his team tell guests to be the keepers of their space, and let other people know if they are jeopardizing their health.

3. Deliveries through the back

prentice employee pizza

 All deliveries must come through the back entrance of Prentice Cafe so no contaminants are tracked through the dining space. “We’ve had to work with vendors because some products have been mixed in,” Roldan says. The dining team takes extra time to educate vendors and make sure they understand what a gluten-free zone looks like.  

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
green smoothie

From DanoneWave Away From Home.

Not so long ago, finding non-dairy milk in a supermarket dairy case was a challenge. But these days, that aisle is bursting with plant-based beverage choices—cow’s milk alternatives crafted from soybeans, nuts, grains or coconut, as consumer demand for these beverages has grown exponentially. According to Euromonitor, worldwide sales of non-dairy milk alternatives more than doubled between 2009 and 2015.

Millennials and Gen Zers, many of them already accustomed to drinking dairy alternatives at home, expect to see some of those same choices...

Industry News & Opinion

George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is adding an additional $200 in dining dollars to each student's dining plan this fall, The GW Hatchet reports.

The boost comes just a year after the university switched to an open-format dining plan that allows students to spend their entire meal fund off campus; allowed venues include about 90 grocery stores and restaurants.

While students support the new plan, they are concerned about dining affordability. In conjunction with discounted meal deals that were implemented last semester, school officials hope the extra $200...

Ideas and Innovation
iris camera

Biometric payment technologies such as finger and palm scanning are slowly emerging in foodservice operations, including the University of Maryland’s transition last fall. But the future may be leaning toward a more hands-off approach.

George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., was looking to speed up its meal-swiping process alongside a new unlimited dining plan. Iris cameras , which take a photograph of an eye that is converted into data that cannot revert back to a photograph, won out.

Danny Anthes, senior manager of information technology, says two factors stood out in...

Ideas and Innovation
breakfast restaurant food

This March, past FSD of the Month Randy Lait and his team gave the FoodService Director staff a tour of the operations at North Carolina State University. During our visit, Randy shared how data is affecting their menu creation and menu mix. At the university, they’re encouraging chefs to use big data—and not just gut feelings—to inform menu decisions.

Every foodservice operator wants to offer more contemporary items in order to please their customer base and keep chefs challenged and engaged. Many chefs make those decisions based on their own tastes, or what’s exciting them at the...

FSD Resources