Urban Bytes, the newest eatery on the University of Utah’s Salt Lake City campus, opened in August for the start of the fall semester. Located in a new $90 million facility, which includes resident housing for close to 1,000 students, the space is intended to mimic an urban street and offers diners a variety of global cuisines. Read on for a look at the new space, which is managed by Chartwells Higher Ed, and how it’s working to serve students during COVID-19.
Creating an urban setting
When planning which concepts to include in Urban Bytes, the team formed several committees made up of university leaders, designers and other project stakeholders. The dining team also turned to students for their feedback. “We do student surveys,” says Associate Director of Dining Management Housing & Residential Education Faa Taupau. “And I've been collecting the data for the last two, three years and trying to put together a list of the top five cuisines or concepts that students would like to see on campus.”
Students can select from seven different stations, including sports-themed grill concept The Game; an all-day breakfast station; a salad bar and soup station that will also offer fresh-squeezed juices; a South American concept called La Taqueria; Asian-inspired Bok Choi, which includes a Mongolian grill; a Mediterranean station named 500 Degrees and an allergen-free station called G-8. “When you enter the dining facility, it's like you're walking down a street and you have all these cafes with different types of foods and international flair,” says Resident District Manager Chuck Weaver. Urban Bytes also includes the City Edge Cafe, which offers coffee, sandwiches, gelato and more.
Transforming into a teaching kitchen
The G-8 allergen-free station also has the capability to transform for student cooking classes. “We do have a camera system built in with audio and video capability,” Weaver says. “So, we're able to put our featured chef into that location, and they can pull ingredients together and really show our students how to prepare meals.”
Ingredients featured in the classes will be sold at a nearby campus market so students can easily purchase everything needed to recreate the meals they learned back at home.
Urban Bytes was able to open on schedule at the beginning of this school year, and stayed on track thanks to the amount of planning the team put in, Operations DirectorDallas Baltzysays. “It really was a group effort to make sure that we didn't miss timelines, as well as any type of challenges head on, and make sure that we accomplish them without any issues for the day,” he says.
The team had both weekly production meetings and daily action plan meetings, during which they shared updates and made sure that they were sticking to the timeframe.
Putting the focus on mobile
Urban Bytes was intended to be mostly self-serve, but with the emergence of COVID-19, the team had to change how students would choose and receive their meals. “We've had to kind of switch the model and fill and pre-package almost everything,” says Baltzy.
Mobile ordering has now become a popular option for students. As part of Chartwells Higher Ed, The University of Utah uses a mobile app called Boost, which was developed for the university to allow diners to pay with both credit and debit cards as well as meal plans. Students who do not wish to use mobile ordering can come into Urban Bytes and order in person, however, they are not allowed to eat inside the dining hall.
Although Urban Bytes wasn’t able to open in the way the team had intended, students still had a positive response to the new eatery. “Obviously, with the COVID restrictions and what have you, we'd wanted to open up fully and show the full potential of what Urban Bytes was meant to be, but we still got the same results, the shock and awe from students on how amazing the facility looks,” saysTaupau. “I think we've met our intent as far as giving students variety and quality when it comes to food, and just the visuals make it look like a great facility.”