Concepts Galore at USC's New Campus Center

After 10 years of planning and building, the new 192,000-square-foot Ronald Tutor Campus Center opened last month at 35,000-student University of Southern California, complete with nine dining concepts. The five-story building is certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

 

USC Campus CenterLOS ANGELES—After 10 years of planning and building, the new 192,000-square-foot Ronald Tutor Campus Center opened last month at 35,000-student University of Southern California, complete with nine dining concepts. The five-story building is certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Kris Klinger, director of USC Hospitality, said the center’s dining options are indicative of the increasing culinary sophistication of college students. He believes the new center is leading the way in changing how universities think about on-campus dining.

Moreton Fig: One of the concepts Klinger is most excited about is Moreton Fig, an 8,000-square-foot restaurant named for two century-old Moreton Bay fig trees that grow in front of the space. The restaurant was created in partnership with Lark Creek Restaurant Group.

“A business partner connected me with Lark Creek,” Klinger said. “We talked and decided this would be the perfect partnership. We worked together to create the concept and the menu. Lark Creek provided us help with recipes and their team is helping our team train all the new chefs, servers and bartenders. Our department will manage the day-to-day operations and Lark Creek will assist on a regular basis, especially because we want to make sure the menu stays fresh and current.“

USC Campus CenterKlinger said at the old Commons there was a sit-down restaurant that offered a nicer setting than other facilities, but Moreton Fig is a step above that. The menu focuses on upscale, seasonal farm-to-table cuisine, including vegetarian and vegan options. Menu items include blackened mahi mahi sliders, sheep’s milk ricotta and herb cannelloni baked in an heirloom tomato ragout, and a baby spinach and gruyère tart.

“We really wanted to take this restaurant to another level,” Klinger said. “We hired an amazing chef [Todd Koenigsberg] and we are focusing on the flavor and presentation. We thought the university needed a place like this.”

Lemonade: The campus center brought in another new partnership in the form of L.A.’s Lemonade concept, which was created by Chef Alan Jackson. According to the brand’s Web site, the concept is described as “part lemonade stand, part grade school cafeteria.” Klinger said the menu features comfort food items with a twist.

“It also really focuses on seasonal items, which I’m a big fan of for several reasons,” Klinger said. “One, it gives you fresh offerings on a regular basis. Two, it’s cost-effective for the customers and the business, and three, you can get creative and have fun with the menu. Alan does a lot of that.”

The menu features “Marketplace” selections such as Brussels sprouts with Parmesan cheese, “Fish & Fowl” options such as a citrus poached salmon, and sandwiches like grilled ham with Manchego cheese and quince on rosemary bread. The restaurant also features an assortment of lemonades including flavors such as cucumber mint, raspberry and ginger.

Another new concept for USC Hospitality is Seeds Marketplace, which Klinger said is modeled after several area upscale markets including, to some extent, Whole Foods with its high-quality food stations.

“It’s not a normal market,” Klinger said. “It has groceries, beverages and home-meal replacements available, but it also has made-to-order sandwich and salad stations, a rotating hot food station and a made-to-order ice cream sandwich and dessert station. It’s definitely an upscale concept.”

Trusted brands: Among all the new dining concepts, there are some students will find familiar. A new version of the old favorite Traditions Pub is located on the center’s underground level, adjacent to a student lounge/performance space area called Tommy’s Place.

“I used to bartend at Traditions when I was in school here,” Klinger said. “Traditions is a full bar, but it also has an upscale pub food component that is great. We serve items like spinach and artichoke dip, a pulled pork quesedilla, chilled edamame, buffalo wings and a pot roast melt. We try to add our own twist to it and we’ve done that with the food offerings at Traditions.”

There are also several national concepts located in the center’s plaza level food court including Panda Express, California Pizza Kitchen, Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, Carl’s Jr. and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

“We did a survey and asked students what concepts they wanted to see on campus,” Klinger said. The No. 1 response was Panda Express followed by CPK. Those two locations have been busy already and the students aren’t even here yet. All these franchises have been great to work with.”

Working with all the different concepts has been one of the biggest challenges for Klinger and his team during the prep work for the campus center.

“Beast is a good word for [the campus center],” Klinger said. “By the end of September we will have opened 14 different units, which is crazy to think about. We have these nine in the campus center and then we are also opening units in the hospital on campus.

“As far as the challenges, I think a big one has been working with all the different concepts and brands to make sure that we are in compliance and that everybody is trained properly. Hiring that many people at once has been a challenge at times. Our department added about 10 new managers and we will have added about 200 employees by the time everything is said and done.

“We are looking to these projects to substantially increase our revenue, which all goes back to the university. Our department has grown substantially during the last three years. Three years ago our budget was to exceed $35 million in revenue, this year, with all these new units, we expect to exceed $50 million.”

For more photos of the concepts at the campus center, visit our Facebook page, here.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The Virginia Department of Health said it has traced a “cluster” of hepatitis A cases to frozen Egyptian strawberries used by Virginia units of a smoothie chain.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe voluntarily trashed the strawberries and switched to supplies from a different source immediately after being notified of the connection, the health department said in a statement issued Friday.

The department noted that it had traced earlier outbreaks of hepatitis A to strawberries imported from Egypt. But it warned that supplies may still be in the freezers of other foodservice operations...

Managing Your Business
business man smash computer

Foodservice directors spend a lot of time taking care of other people, whether it’s K-12 students who aren’t always eating enough at home, malnourished patients back for return visits or employees squabbling among themselves. That kind of pressure can weigh heavily—and come home from work. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America finds that 83% of men and 72% of women say stress at work carries over into their personal lives, and 50% call staff management their main culprit for workplace stress.

“Stress is very difficult in our world, and work-life balance is very much a...

Industry News & Opinion

Students at an Arkansas high school may have to take creative measures to get a meal, thanks to a school policy that prevents parents from dropping off lunches left at home.

The Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Ark., last week posted a picture on Facebook of a sign that reads, “Stop. If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment, etc., please turn around and exit the building. Your son will learn to problem-solve in your absence.”

While social media opinions on the school’s rule were mixed, some commenters expressed concern that...

Industry News & Opinion

Novato Unified School District in Novato, Calif., has created a new vegetarian grab-and-go item as part of the district’s Meatless Monday initiative, marinij.com reports .

The Fiesta Rice and Bean Shaker, which is served in disposable cups, contains rice, corn, black beans, taco seasoning, corn tortilla chips and romaine lettuce topped with an optional salsa and ranch dressing. It’s also customizable, as students are able to select which ingredients they’d like to include.

The vegetarian shaker is made using produce from a nearby organic garden. Sofie Garcia, an employee in...

FSD Resources