Duquesne U.'s Red Ring gets new "owner," new menu

University restaurant also adds outdoor seating, build-your-own-burger program.

Parkhurst Dining, the contract management company now overseeing the foodservice at Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, has wasted little time in putting its own stamp on the program it took over in July. The Pittsburgh contractor has revamped the menu at the Red Ring, the freestanding restaurant on the campus’s border, installed “outdoor” seating at the restaurant and built a Freshens right next door to The Red Ring.

“The look of the restaurant is gorgeous,” says Chris Baierbach, director of restaurant operations for Parkhurst at the university, “The way it was designed and the quality of the items they used for the décor, we didn’t want to touch that, so we made the food our main focus.”

Baierbach and his team embarked on a three-phase process, the first of which was switch from using preprepared frozen foods to doing more menu items from scratch.

“We stayed with the old menu, because we didn’t want to create a culture shock right away,” Baierbach says. “But we started doing more from scratch: hand-make our burgers, cut our own fries, cut and bread our chicken tenders.”

In the second phase, the crew began tweaking the menu, removing less popular items, going to separate lunch and dinner menus “to try to build the check average at dinner,” and adding a build-your-own-burger program similar to that found at Burgatory, a Pittsburgh-area restaurant, complete with a special order form.

“Our build-your-own-burger sheet looks like one of those Scantron sheets that you use to take tests,” says Carrie MacDonald, marketing manager for Parkhurst. “There are six questions to answer, and there is even space for the chef to give you a ‘grade' on your burger.”

The final phase, Baierbach says, will be to rebrand The Red Ring with a new logo and menu.

In addition to the menu changes, Parkhurst also added 42 “al fresco” seats to the right side of the restaurant. Nine high-top cocktail tables and six four-tops adorn an outdoor space that is enclosed in plastic and warmed by space heaters for year-round use.

In addition to being popular with students and staff at the 9,000-student university, The Red Ring draws additional business on nights when the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team has a home game because of the restaurant's proximity to Mellon Arena.