Union South, University of Wisconsin, Madison

By creating distinctive concepts, the UW Union South has become a campus destination.

The design of Ginger Root uses a cool, Zen-like color palette, says Korz. One of Korz’s favorite pieces is a 450-pound sliding barn door, made from reclaimed wood, which can divide the space for cooking classes or private events. Other elements include a wooden floor that is “somewhere between white oak and bamboo,” carved highboy chairs with a bamboo finish and dark granite tables.

“That unit has really taken off for us,” Korz says. “We’re actually only open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in that space and we’ll do 360 covers. It’s really an operator’s dream. It’s been so popular that the students have asked us to open it for dinner so we are working on that now. Dinner service is expected to roll out in January.”

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Ideas and Innovation
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Ensuring that employees regularly complete the busywork missing from their daily checklist can be a challenge, but these tasks often help an operation run efficiently with fewer unexpected costs. At Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., Regional Executive Chef Dustin Cochran has found a solution to ensure his walk-in coolers always have a clean vent. Cochran starts with a thorough cleaning of the vent, then slips a hairnet over it to catch the dust. Instead of getting employees to deep clean the vents, they need only replace the hairnet.

Ideas and Innovation
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Team uniforms are a way we encourage fun. I tell the mangers that every person on your team needs to look like a member of your team, but they can decide together what they want to wear. When the students see a cafeteria person that is matching and having fun with their outfits, they relate to those people better. We don’t want them to look stiff and stuffy.

Ideas and Innovation
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We have spent considerable money making cafeterias cool again. New paint jobs, crazy color patterns, custom graphics and changes in lighting schemes have made some of our cafes popular gathering places. We’ve also experimented with videos, cable TV programs and music. We involved a number of student groups and student input in improving the atmosphere, especially in our high school and middle school cafeterias.

Menu Development
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“This is the best meatloaf I’ve ever had,” a diner at Alcatel-Lucent telecommunications in Naperville, Ill., once told chef Iraj Fernando. The dish was rooted in a tried-and-true source—the “Betty Crocker Cookbook.”

“I just seasoned the breadcrumbs differently, used fresh parsley and beat the eggs to make them frothier,” says Fernando, executive chef and manager for Southern Foodservice Management.

Consumer interest is up for classic and comforting meat dishes like meatballs (16%), beef pot pie (26%) and meatloaf (12%) for dinner now compared to two years ago, shows...

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