Great Spaces

It's not just about the food looking great. FSD highlights great foodservice facility design.

So much about dining is visual. But it’s not just the food that needs to look amazing. Creating an inviting dining environment is key to a location’s success. Below we showcase five operations that have recently undergone face-lifts or opened new spaces to entice customers to dine with them.

Online Exclusive: EVK, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

At EVK (nicknamed Everybody’s Kitchen) Residential Dining at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, bold color choices and natural light have brought a modern sensibility to what was a very dated space. New to EVK are a Mongolian grill, a hearth pizza oven and a 20-foot salad bar and deli station. The ceiling was raised and the high, low and soft seating options provide “micro-environments” for students to eat and gather. EVK serves approximately 4,000 guests daily, 98% of whom are on a student meal plan.

Project contact: Kris Klinger, director of USC Hospitality
Architect: Senninger Walker Architects
Design consultant: Webb Design Food Service Design Consultants, Tustin, Calif.
Type of project: Full renovation
Cost of project: Just under $3 million
Length of project: May 2012-August 2012
Project goal: It was a pretty old space in need of some serious TLC. We had been spending time and money just slapping lipstick on it, but the facility was old and we needed a long-term solution for the dated equipment.
Most visually stunning element of design: [The space] just totally pops. The renovation added a lot of great color and seating elements that create these micro areas with tall seating, soft seating, hard seating, etc., so the students have cool areas to hang out.
Most practical element of design: We separated the kitchen, so at one end of the facility is the main serving area with the Mongolian grill and the wood-fired pizza oven, and the other side is the deli and salad bar.
People are most impressed by: The change in look and feel of the space compared to what it used to be. We opened up the ceiling to make the space brighter and more open. Plus, the bright red light fixtures stand out.
Biggest lesson I've learned during this project is: We were under a tight timeline and that limited us in some aspects. We got it all done and our partners stepped up and helped us in every aspect. Without them, and a very dedicated and hard-working residential team, we would have had a difficult time making our deadline. Budgetary constraints were also a concern, so we had to give and take to get to the number we needed.
Most challenging aspect of design: Opening up the ceilings and connecting the two serving areas. We knew what we wanted to do, but it took some time and effort getting there. The building is actually two buildings combined, so there were walls and structural features that limited us. Plus, it was an old facility and we had to take everything up to code.
The space works because: Not only does the space look great, it is also functional and allows us to accommodate more than 3,000 students a day. Those who are visiting for the first time expect a dining facility like this at USC. They appreciate the options and how the food is presented. For our staff, they appreciate the layout, new equipment and efficiency of the space. 

Click here to see a Snapshots collection of photos from EVK

Bistro3 Dining, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo

Built in the 1960s, Bistro3 Dining Hall had only received equipment updates when needed. The renovation brought several restaurant venues together under one roof, along with natural light and a comfortable Western Michigan-themed atmosphere. The venue features Blazin’ Bronco (grill), Fresh Creations (deli, salads and pizza/pasta bar), World Flavors (international cuisine), The Nook (cereal, fruit, yogurt) and Sweet Sensations (desserts).

Project contact: Judy Gipper, R.D., dining services director
Architect: Architect One
Design consultant: Bakergroup, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Type of project: Renovation, went from traditional cafeteria to cook-to-order
Cost of project: Less than $5 million
Length of project: March 2010-September 2010
Project goal: We wanted to give returning students an enhanced dining experience in terms of menu options and service style.
Most visually stunning element of design: Our World Flavors station. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in. Right off the bat you see that the space is contemporary and comfortable. It has a beautiful copper
façade over the hood. It uses lovely glass tiles at the bottom. It has two very nice serving areas on either side. You are drawn to go over and see what’s being served at that station.
Most practical element of design: The flow works really nice. We are very busy in that location, but we don’t have line backups. The line’s design is such that there aren’t people doubling back or crossing over, which creates a really efficient flow to the space. The seating options have also been a huge success. We have soft seating near a fireplace, as well as remote booths where students can gather with their friends.
People are most impressed by: The space really showcases the food presentation and the innovative menu items.
Biggest lesson I’ve learned during this project is: There was not a clear delineation date when all contractors would be out. My understanding of them turning it over was that they were going to be completely finished. So that’s one thing I learned for future projects, that I have to outline what the end of the project will look like.
Most challenging aspect of design: We set it up as a dining hall during the day and then at night it turns to a cash operation that has more of a coffeehouse feel. While we’ve figured it out and it’s working out now, we really had to think through what it meant to make that switch.  

Click here to see a Snapshots collection of photos from Bistro3 Dining

Atrium Café at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, Pa.

In January 2013, Geisinger Medical Center opened the Atrium Café, in the lower level of the campus’s Hospital for Advanced Medicine. Foodservice Director Steve Cerullo says the 350-seat café took the place of three disparate operations and has increased participation at the 10,000-employee campus by 35% to 40%. A scatter-system servery features separate stations for pizza, entrées, grill items, salads and even sushi. There is also a small convenience store attached. This is the first phase of a two-stage project that includes a room service component, scheduled to kick off in late March. The second phase is a new production kitchen, for which ground was broken recently.

Project contact: Steven Cerullo, foodservice director
Design consultant: The Inman Foodservices Group, Nashville, Tenn.
Type of project: New construction
Cost of project: $9 million
Length of project: August 2011-January 2013
Project goal: We wanted to respond to an expanding customer base. We were at a saturation point. We had Cuisine Central, which was our main employee and visitor cafeteria. We had our Bistro 100 at our main entrance and we had Miracle Square Café, which was in our children’s hospital. All were relatively close to each other, but we wanted to be able to drive the volume into one area. This was the area we picked to make that happen.
Most visually stunning element of design: The bright, airy dining space to the right of the servery.
Most practical element of design: It helps our off shifts. Like most hospitals, we’ve always struggled with third-shift employees, because we couldn’t offer them the variety we had during the day. For them, the space was reduced and the staffing was reduced. Without increasing staffing we can now offer them more choices; for example, our salad bar is now open 24/7, which is something they’ve been asking for for a long time.
People are most impressed by: How much equipment we have out there. We always tried to focus on show cooking. But in the past all we had out there was a flattop grill, so we were limited to short order-type foods. This really gave us that open kitchen concept that you see in some of your best restaurants. You see things coming out of the rotisserie oven. You see things being prepared in front of you. We went from 95% of food cooked in the back of the house to the exact opposite.
The most challenging aspect of the design: Planning so far in advance. In foodservices, equipment and menus change so quickly that things we thought we wanted a year ago made no sense at the actual completion time. I found myself wanting to make changes up until opening day.
The biggest lesson learned was: Think and spend time with the trades during the entire project. Make changes you need but don’t get hung up on the small stuff.
The space works because: It’s much more open. For example, the aisles around the various stations are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.

Click here to see a Snapshots collection of photos from the Atrium Café

State Farm Café, State Farm Operations Center, Duluth, Ga.

In March 2013 the approximately 2,300 employees at the State Farm Operations Center got their first look at their new café. The four-month front-of-house renovation brought better flow to the café, which features a deli, pizza/pasta station, salad bar, grill, comfort food station and an action station.

Project contact: Ed Baradine, division manager for Southern Foodservice Management’s Atlantic region, and JoAnn Thielman, foodservice director for Southern at State Farm Insurance Co.
Architect: Hendrick Inc.
Design consultant: Robert Rippe and Associates Inc., Minnetonka, Minn.
Cost of project: About $2 million
Project goal: The servery was beginning to show its age. We wanted to give it a fresh look and updated equipment.
Most visually stunning element of design: When you first enter the space, there is a pizza/pasta station that has a deck oven surrounded by stonework. It really pops when the food is out there.
Most practical element of design: It seems to flow really well. The points of service are spread around and everything has an arched flow to it.
People are most impressed by: The really high-end look of the space. The designers took inspiration from the surrounding area, which is wooded. They carried that through the servery with organic colors—very calm and serene.
Most challenging aspect of design: Developing a temporary serving area for the employees of State Farm to use while the renovation was taking place. We ended up using a retrofitted conference room with hot and cold grab-and-go serving equipment. 

Click here to see a Snapshots collection of photos from the State Farm Café

Union Collegiate Academy, Union Public Schools, Tulsa, Okla.

When more than 1,000 students were to be added to Union High School, in the Union Public School District in Tulsa, Okla., Lisa Griffin, R.D., director of child nutrition, knew she needed to upgrade the cafeteria to be able to handle the influx. The school was also undergoing a face-lift to become the Union Collegiate Academy. After a bond issue was passed, the district used the funds to transform the traditional high school into a collegelike space, with the goal of 100% graduation rate of college-ready students. To fulfill that mission in foodservice, Griffin’s team designed a dining program with nine different concepts and 20 seating areas, spread throughout the school.

Project contact: Lisa Griffin, R.D., director of child nutrition, and Eli Huff, executive chef/culinary operations coordinator
Architect: Crafton Tull
Engineers: Lee & Browne Consulting Engineers Inc.
Type of project: Renovation and new build
Cost of project: $2.4 million
Length of project: November 2010-July 2012
Project goal: We wanted to update an old space and be able to serve a growing student population.
Most visually stunning element of design: The seating area in the grand hall. The superintendent wanted it to be designed to make your jaw drop. Union is known for its athletics, music and band so she wanted to carry that through, to make students really proud of coming to Union and having a college mindset. Being able to sit there and look outside while eating is really great.
Most practical element of design: The technology and equipment in the main market kitchen. We were blessed with the budget to get 13 combi ovens, a blast chiller and a bread oven. Having that technology has allowed us to be able to meet the demands of the students. We were able to produce enough food in the main kitchen to stock all the other areas.
People are most impressed by: All the food choices that are available, and all the different areas for seating. The whole concept behind the Collegiate Academy is that the school is offering college courses for credit. The design and layout is what you’d find at a college. They wanted the kids to be able to eat anywhere. There are probably 20 different eating areas.
Most challenging aspect of design: Staffing. We had to cover each area and produce food not knowing where the kids were going to eat. That had me unsettled for the first couple of weeks.
The space works because: It’s also very important to tie into the mission of the site. That site’s mission is to have 100% of students graduate or be college-ready. I don’t think this concept would have been successful if we did a typical school lunch cafeteria. We got the buy-in of all the players.
Biggest lesson I’ve learned during this project is: You need to be flexible with your plans. We had an idea of what we wanted to do but had to adjust.  

Click here to see a Snapshots collection of photos from the Union Collegiate Academy