Money matters in renovations, new buildings

Getting funding is a challenge, but college operators are leading the way in most construction projects.

Renovations and new construction are two of the surest ways to create buzz around an operation’s foodservice. According to The Big Picture data, C&U operators are planning more renovations and new locations than any other segment. They’ve also completed more renovations than other segments in the past two years. And this market isn’t showing signs of letting up. Seventy-three percent of C&U operators are planning a renovation in the next two years.

At the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, Kris Klinger, director of USC Hospitality, says his department just completed the refurbishing of one dining hall and one retail location. The department has opened 12 new locations since 2008. Klinger says he thinks C&U is more prone to renovations and new builds because of student demand.

“Students have higher expectations,” Klinger says. “The on-campus venues must be upgraded to compete with the streetside competitors. Plus, amenities such as foodservices are seen as selling points or draws to attract top students and faculty.”

Mary Molt, assistant director of Housing and Dining at Kansas State University in Manhattan, is planning a new residence hall and dining center. She says increased enrollment allows C&U operators to execute more renovations and new locations than other markets.

“More students are attending college, and there is more emphasis on the retention benefits of on-campus living,” she says. “[I also think there is] more recognition of the value of on-campus living. Money is cheap right now. And finally, many of the facilities need updating.”

Ironically, money is at the root of why other segments aren’t renovating or building new locations as much as colleges. Linda Stoll, executive director of food services at Jeffco School District in Golden, Colo., says the biggest renovations she’s been able to do have involved replacement of old hoods.

“Money is very tight in the K-12 market,” Stoll says. “With new regulations, operators are concentrating on meal pattern renovations [rather than facility renovations].”

Lisa Griffin, director of child nutrition at Union Public Schools, in Tulsa, Okla., agrees.

“A lot of schools are struggling to get enough funding to support education, let alone add to the services and buildings,” Griffin says. “Child nutrition has to compete with education needs to get bond monies, and education needs usually win. I also think child nutrition departments have so many other projects and requirements tugging at them for attention, money and time, that new builds and renovations—which require a lot of time, money and attention—don’t have a chance of being planned and implemented.”

Despite a demand on time and energy, Griffin’s district was able to complete a renovation and new addition to its high school cafeteria that emulates what college campuses offer students.

“We were able to receive bond money to take three classrooms and make them into a new kitchen and serving area for four new concepts,” she says. “We were able to get space to build a coffee shop and baked goods café with sandwiches, soups and bread bowls. All of these new sites were designed with the idea of creating a collegelike atmosphere to tie into the high school’s goal of getting students ready for college.” 

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