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Inside a revamped dining hall rooted in flexibility

When students at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia return from summer break in August, they will be greeted with a revamped dining option located in the university’s Hill College House. Along with having air conditioning for the first time ever, the updated 300-seat eatery will include expanded hours, flexible menu offerings and a new method of managing waste. Here’s an inside look.

Expanded options                                                               

Hill House’s new dining hall will feature several self-contained stations, including a Mongolian grill, a pizza and pasta concept called The Grotto, a chefs’ table, a bakery, and a station with smoothies, yogurt and fresh fruit.

These additions expand offerings for students with dietary restrictions and address concerns about cross-contamination of ingredients. Menu items at the veggie-focused station, for example, will be prepared using equipment exclusive to that station, says Pamela Lampitt, director of business services and hospitality services for the university. “A lot of our vegetarians or vegans won’t eat anything fried like our french fries because they don’t trust them out of our fryers, since a meat product was fried in there as well,” she says.

Plug and play

In order to change up the menu and keep things exciting, Lampitt says that the dining team will switch out some equipment weekly at a few of its stations, such as The Grotto. The equipment on rotation will include a flat-top grill, a chargrill and a star burner. “On a weekly basis, [students] won’t be going to the same station and finding the same food,” Lampitt says.

Late-night service

Along with serving three meals daily, the dining hall will also offer a late-night option. From Sunday through Thursday, one or two of its stations will stay open until midnight to serve students looking for after-dinner eats. Similar to the rotating equipment, the stations that remain open will be switched up throughout the week. While the final menu has yet to be determined, Lampitt says some exclusive late-night items will likely be offered.

New waste management

The dining hall at Hill House will mark the first time the university has used biodigesters. “We’re going to be managing our waste very differently in the past,” Lampitt says. “We’re narrowing it down to what we think is going to be most effective.” The dining hall’s two new biodigesters will replace the eatery’s previous methods of managing waste, which included composting and using bio bins. 

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