About three and half years ago, John Petillo, president of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., approached the university’s dining team with an idea to open a ’50s-style diner on campus. “When we heard about it, we were really excited to partner with the university on it because I don’t think there’s anything like it on other campuses in the New England area,” says Chartwells Resident District Manager Mark Tammone. Named after Petillo himself (and chosen by students in a naming contest), JP’s Diner offers students a retro dining experience with modern amenities. Read on for an inside look.
At 4,500 square feet, JP’s seats 110, with additional space for 40 outdoors. Featuring classic diner booths and counter seating, the space doubles down on the midcentury theme with a jukebox and TVs on either side of the diner that play black-and-white TV shows such as “I Love Lucy” and “The Honeymooners” on a loop.
As with every other aspect of the diner, Petillo was heavily involved in menu development. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, JP’s offers classic diner fare such as egg sandwiches, burgers, floats and club sandwiches, as well as Jersey disco fries (a combination of gravy and cheese fries) in homage to Petillo’s New Jersey background. Takeout is a key component; students who order ahead can get any item from the full sit-down menu to go. Students can also use their dining dollars to purchase meals.
JP’s is now the dining venue open the latest on campus, serving food until 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and 1 a.m. during the rest of the week. Previously, the latest dining option was a retail location open until 1 a.m., Tammone says. “This was the perfect venue to expand our hours a little bit and add a really cool option for students.”
Since the diner features table service, students are employed as servers, managers, hostesses and cooks. Tammone says that interns from Chartwells’ student success internship program will also serve as some of the staff.