The to-do list was long but the timeline was short for the renovation of Murray State University’s 32-year-old servery, the Thoroughbred Room. With only the summer months to complete the project, the main goal of the renovation on this Kentucky campus was to move food preparation to the front of the house. Pizza preparation was brought to the forefront through the installation of a hearth stone pizza oven, which is now the focal point of the space. A portable salad bar was scrapped to make way for a more permanent unit that offers both self-serve and prepared items. The small and enclosed short-order station was also moved front and center, and more grilling and fryer capacity were added. Finally, new self-service stations were installed, including a pasta bar and frozen yogurt bar.
New equipment and a fresh, organized space inspired new menu items. In addition to gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and new side dishes like fried dill pickle chips and crinkle-cut sweet potato fries, customers can also choose from two signature burgers—the Racer Burger, a third-pound beef patty, and the Southwest Burger, which pairs a beef patty with a chorizo patty. Or guests can build their own burger at the new condiment and toppings station, which doubles as a bagel and schmear bar during breakfast service.
Terri Benton, associate director of dining services, says that a great working relationship with the contractor, in addition to use of preassembled modular cabinetry allowed the renovation to run smoothly and efficiently, even though the space was used to service summer camp visitors.
“Almost every day since we opened, customer counts are up from the same week the previous year and are holding steady,” says Paula Amols, director, dining services and Racer Hospitality. “Transaction counts are up 12% and revenue is up by more than 24% over the same period last year,” she adds. “Customers are not only coming, but they’re spending more.”