COLUMBIA, Mo.—A renovation and an addition to the campus’ student center greatly increased the retail offerings at the 32,400-student University of Missouri, according to Alan Petersen, manager of student center dining. The new concepts—Do Mundo’s, Kate and Emma’s, Pomodoro, Mort’s, Infusion and Sunshine Sushi, which is contracted—are spread out over the entire campus center.
“We did an expansion and full renovation of the old building, which started about five years ago. We took possession of the first part of the renovation, which houses five of the concepts, a year ago. These concepts are all walk up to the counter and order, and you’ll either get your food immediately or you’ll get a pager depending on what you are ordering. We really wanted to go for an independent restaurant-type look. There was definitely a focus on letting the customers see the food being finished.
Do Mundo’s: For Do Mundo’s, Petersen says the department wanted an American Southwest feel.
“Think of the metal you see out on an old ranch where it has some good patina to it,” Petersen says, “or something you would see on the wagon train. We’ve used a lot of cast iron work. We found a plate that is in what I call the ‘blue speckle’ design used in campware. We used all slate tiles on the front of the counters to give it that very rustic look. The countertop is solid black granite, but we used a comb saw that leaves a rougher looking finish. It was to give the look of a campfire that didn’t quite burn out. The tiles on the wall look like patina metal, but they are actually ceramic tile. It looks like we used old metals, but it’s actually new materials.”
Do Mundo’s menu focus is international barbecue, featuring a churrasco grill. Petersen says the department chose to install a churrasco because of all the different variations chefs could do with it.
“By being able to load the spits you can do some small-batch cooking and it creates a lot of eye candy for the customer,” Petersen says. “We have some windows behind [the grill] so customers can look in through the windows and see what’s on the grill.”
Petersen says they decided on an international barbecue concept because of student demand and national trends.
“We’re seeing a lot of Brazilian steakhouses popping up around the country so we wanted to get on the bandwagon,” he adds. “We really wanted to feature barbecues from around the world. Currently we serve Caribbean, Hawaiian, Brazilian and some Midwest originals.”
The current menu features pulled pork, smoked turkey and churrasco beef, all available as sandwiches or platters, as well as Huli-huli chicken skewers and vegetable skewers.
“Every culture has something that fits so it’s about limiting what we want to start doing,” Petersen says. “When we tested with students and did some surveys barbecue was one of the top-requested concepts. We’re currently doing about 400 transactions a day. It’s lower right now than what we expected due to the construction on the building. It’s been building up now that the construction is done.”
Petersen says to increase traffic at Do Mundo’s the department has changed some signage, brought faculty and staff in to direct traffic flow and employed social media strategies.
“We do something called Fill the Grill,” Petersen says. “We’ll put a message on Facebook that says something like, show up today and say, ‘Fill the Grill’ and you’ll get your protein portions doubled for the same price. It’s been a great way to get the word out about the concept.”
Infusion: For the student center’s coffee concept, Petersen says the department wanted the walls and counter to feel like customers were looking at a container of coffee beans.
“We found a multicolored mocha quartz and that’s on the back wall of the island and the walls out front so we have some very rich tones,” Petersen says. “It’s very comfortable. We were building off this idea of the infusion of mixing and blending. On one end we have the coffee roaster and the espresso machine. That flows into our fresh-squeezed orange juice machine and then we have our smoothie machine.”
The menu features freshly roasted coffee, smoothies, fresh-made doughnuts, banana breads, apple turnovers, muffins, cookies, scones, salads, fruit cups, veggie cups, milks, teas, energy drinks and soy milks. Infusion also offers hard-pack ice cream, for which the café makes its own waffle cones and bowls. Petersen says though the concept is weather-driven, the café usually does between 700 and 900 transactions per day.
Kate and Emma’s: Petersen says when thinking about a deli concept, students didn’t want another Subway or Quiznos.
“They wanted better ingredients,” Petersen says. “We really wanted a home-style kitchen feel. We have walls that are almost like parchment color. We have gold aluminum panels in the front. The trim work is all done in what looks like wrought iron. We have green granite countertops. It’s very earthy. You’d almost say it’s like your grandmother’s kitchen.”
Kate and Emma’s offers signature sandwiches and wraps with several different flavor profiles. Petersen says the department decided against a make-your-own concept to improve speed of service.
“Instead of an order-as-you-go method, this way we try to teach them that, ‘here are our sandwich profiles, try them and then if you don’t like something on the sandwich we’ll substitute it.’ Usually after they try it they don’t ask for substitutions. We also try to make the tastes complete so the customers don’t need to ask for condiments.”
Hot wrap options include a Thai Chicken Wrap made with marinated chicken, cucumber salad, cilantro rice and spicy peanut sauce; the K and E’s Club made with marinated chicken, Parmesan bacon, cilantro rice, Monterey Jack cheese and avocado ranch dressing; and the Pork and Slaw, which features house-smoked pork, creamy slaw and apricot chipotle barbecue sauce. Signature sandwiches include the Turkey Twist, which is made with sliced turkey, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and cranberry sauce, served on thick wheatberry bread; a Huli Chicken Hoagie made with Huli-marinated chicken, chipotle pico de gallo and avocado sauce; and a Veggie Hoagie, which is made with grilled portobella mushroom, edamame hummus, roasted red pepper, mozzarella cheese and basil pesto sauce. Petersen says Kate and Emma’s does between 800 and 900 transactions per day.
Mort’s: Named after Mort Walker, the creator of Beetle Bailey and an MU grad, this American grill concept draws design inspiration from its namesake.
“Even though it’s named after a cartoonist, we actually wanted very rich, higher end materials, almost like a steakhouse or a bar and grill,” Petersen says. “The counter is a cherrywood front with a black and gold [the school’s colors] granite countertop. The back walls are black tiles with some little golden glass tiles. Then we used cartoon strips where Mort had done some Beetle Bailey cartoons that were specific about MU, and we put those on the back of the staff’s T-shirts.”
Mort’s menu offers classic hamburgers, cheeseburgers, turkey burgers, black bean burgers, chicken strips, cheese fries, onion rings and milk shakes. Petersen says the department is adding a full breakfast in the fall.
“It’s the place to go to get your cheeseburger, cheese fries and chocolate shake,” Petersen says. “We tried to incorporate the Beetle character but not create anything that was too [childlike]. We didn’t want a Chuck E. Cheese's. Mort’s does about 800 to 900 transactions per day.”
Pomodoro: A classic Italian feeling was the goal for the student center’s pizza and pasta concept, according to Petersen.
“We really wanted to focus on the two different aspects of the restaurant—pizza and pasta,” Petersen says. “We have a long linear counter with the pizza oven on one side with some special tile work around it to show off the wood stone oven. On the other side we really wanted to show off the pasta station, so we used some red aluminum on the pasta station hoods. Our graphics department made some line art out of copper wire of people eating pasta. We stuck with red and white, which are your traditional Italian colors, but instead of the checkerboard or things you’ve seen before we have an ivory colored wall and used red tiles in a vertical stripe. The counters are an off-white color and then we used red tiles around the pizza oven to have the red and the white without the checkerboard.”
Pasta choices include a choice of penne or Caprese (pasta stuffed with mozzarella); marinara, Alfredo or a sauce of the week; and a choice of adding chicken and/or vegetables. Pizzas include cheese or pepperoni, along with specials like a Buffalo chicken pizza or a smoked turkey pizza. Pomodoro does between 600 and 700 transactions per day. Petersen says for all these concepts the department’s aim was to use as much scratch cooking as possible.
“We really wanted them to be not fast food but good food done quickly,” Petersen says. “We tried to specifically target some audiences like vegetarians and vegans, not by having a large portion of the menu devoted to that but a few items that were really good everywhere.
Whether you were vegetarian, vegan or not, you’d go order it. People love the veggie Huli-huli skewers at Do Mundo’s. It’s vegan friendly and you can order it right off the menu. People with different allergies can order that. Besides good food quick we wanted to make as much as we could in house. We can control the cost. We can react to customer request. We can control nutritional value. We wanted each concept to feel like an independent restaurant. We’ve actually had people ask, ‘what’s this chain, we’ve never heard of it before?’ If you build something where quality is good and they can get what they want then, it will be supported by our customers.”