Renovation inspired 'greening'

Fredericksburg, Va.—A recent café renovation allowed 5,000-student University of Mary Washington to implement green initiatives that earned the café the ability to become a certified Virginia Green Restaurant.


FoodService Director - Going Green - University of Mary Washington renovation“UMW Dining was one of the first college campus dining units in Virginia to be designated an official Virginia Green Restau­rant,” said Monica Zimmer, director of public relations for Sodexo, which manages the university’s foodservice. “Established by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the designation as a Virginia Green Restaurant indicates that our foodservice operations minimize the use of disposable foodservice products, recycle grease, recycle and reduce waste, use water efficiently and have an effective plan to conserve energy.”

Kori Dean, interim general manager of UMW Dining for Sodexo, said the department had already implemented most of the required initiatives due to the renovation before they even heard about the certification.

“The requirements included things we’d already done such as switching our disposables to biodegradable/sustainable foodservice products and recycling our used grease from our fryers,” Dean said. “Another part of it was recycling and reducing waste, which was part of the reason for the renovation. With more cooked-to-order action stations, there’s a lot less waste. We also had to use water efficiently and part of doing that came from a new dishwashing system we installed that helps reduce our water and electrical usage, which also was installed during the renovation. We used to have these carts where students would put the dirty trays and we’d have to come and wheel them away, but with the renovation we built a pass-through in the wall for dish return.”

The renovation consisted of gutting two of the dining rooms in the main dining hall to allow for more made-to-order stations. The first dining room, called the Bistro, previously had very limited options.

FoodService Director - Going Green - University of Mary Washington renovation“It had a traditional cafeteria line that came out from the kitchen where we did pizza, pasta and a salad bar,” Dean said. “After we did the renovation, we took the whole serving island and put it in the center of the room, which helped with our traffic flow. All the stations are cook-to-order, so we were able to have a pizza station and a made-to-order pasta station still. On the other side of the circle we have a panini press area, a made-to-order salad station and a new gelato station. It really helped the flow of the room because the students can come in and go directly to the station they want.”

The atmosphere of the room, said Rose Benedict, marketing manager for Sodexo at the university, is heavy on  the Mediterranean café theme.

“I would call it a modern European feel,” Benedict said. “The floor in particular is a huge ‘wow’ because it’s this beautiful gold metallic that looks like a metallic marble floor—it isn’t, but it just has a gleam to it. We have beautiful, comfortable banquette seating and circular booths that make you feel like you’re in this really comfortable, cozy conversational area. It’s just very elegant, great ambiance and it’s really one of the students’ favorite rooms.”

The other room that was renovated is called the South Market, which was modeled after a park.

“The South Market has a totally different feel to it,” Dean said. “Prior to the renovation it was a Southern themed room with South American, Southwest U.S. and Southeast Asian-type of foods. We did something similar to what we did in the Bistro in that we removed that cafeteria line and put the servery in the middle of the room in a circle. So we added a sushi station to the room, along with an international station that offers burritos, tacos, etc. We also had the ability to expand our deli component so now students can get sandwiches made to order. We also do Mongolian grill in there and the student come in and pick all the fresh ingredients that they want and then it’s prepared how they want it. The ambiance and décor in that room changed drastically. The design has kind of an outdoor feel. The flooring looks like you’re walking on stones, and the seating area looks like you’re sitting on grass. The seating is metal, like you would see in a park, with umbrellas.”

Dean said the renovation and the green efforts really went hand in hand, and the program is stronger for it.

“We did implement other green initiatives that weren’t necessary for the restaurant certification, “ Dean said. “Things like switching to much smaller trays so students aren’t getting as many plates, and that’s helping to reduce our waste. Actually many students are choosing to go without trays so we may go completely trayless in the future. We also planted an herb garden for our own herb preparation, and we use many different local food vendors for diary, produce, poultry and the bakery.”