The University of Richmond has opened the doors to a newly renovated dining hall, which features upgraded dining stations and a modern look.
While Heilman Dining Center continued to serve students throughout the summer, the servery was shut down after last semester and, since then, has been completely transformed to reflect the trends of today’s students, says Terry Baker, executive dining director at the Virginia school.
Expanding international flavors, customization and plant-based options were goals of the renovation, says Baker. The result is a series of micro-restaurants that offers students a wide range of dining experiences.
“We wanted to make it so the dining hall experience will fit with what the students are doing now. So, when you walk into the dining hall you see all the locations around the servery in a series of small micro-restaurants or very designed platforms. So, when the student walks in they can know where they would want to go for their different food station,” Baker says.
When first walking in, students are greeted with a mural of fresh fruits and vegetables, which Baker says highlights the dining program's emphasis on fresh cooking.
“We want you to know that we’re really into scratch cooking and making things fresh and wholesome and nutritious. As you get greeted with that, you walk into the dining zone and you see all these flavors and different menu items to choose from,” she says.
In addition to cosmetic upgrades, most stations have been renamed and now feature expanded offerings.
The bakery station, renamed Crumbs and Cream, features fresh-baked goods including Tres Leche Cake and Vegan Ranger cookies, made by the school’s pastry chefs.
The pizza and pasta station has been transformed to feature Mediterranean cuisine under the name Herb and Olive. It has also been expanded to include more diverse foods such as Roasted Shishito Peppers and Za'atar Potatoes, which Baker says better reflects students' modern palate.
“Part of the renovation was to also call out vegetarian and plant-based foods. So, one of our zones is called Plant Life. It’s a really nice vibrant green with its own menu that has a lot of plant-based food,” says Baker.
The Plant Life station features vegan and vegetarian dishes including Vegan Tofu Casserole and Roasted Acorn Squash.
Additionally, the school added a zone focused on food for students with special dietary needs, called Fare. The station creates a space for students who go through the school’s dietitian to pick up their meals for the day, which are made to order by the diet cook. Fare also has an area for students to pick up snacks and other quick options.
“It’s nice because the student can pick up their meal and just sit down with their friends and not have to worry about what they can or cannot have—we’ll have the meal already ready,” says Baker. “We really want to take care of those students with special dietary needs.”
The dining hall also features global cuisine through its station called Wander and a panini and deli area called Handcrafted Daily. The grill station, which serves hamburgers, chicken and veggie burgers, has been renamed Provisions 804, which features the university’s area code. The zone that serves daily specials, such as a baked potato bar and a poke bowl station, has been renamed Daily Bites.
While most of the stations have been renamed and revamped, Bruce’s, which is named after a former president of the university, has retained its name to showcase the history and heritage of the dining hall, says Baker. Bruce’s serves home-cooked meals such as Kalua Pulled Pork and Grilled Shoyu Chicken.
The updates were done with the intent of raising the student experience by highlighting the variety of food options, Baker says.
“I think it will elevate the student experience because we’re bringing awareness of the different types of food offerings that are options for them. You can choose vegan and vegetarian at Plant Life and enjoy that. You can choose international flavors if you want to do that today,” she says. “There’s a focus on home-cooked foods, a focus on different cuisines around the world. It will really broaden their experience in dining.”