Dining Commons renovated
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DC recieves facelift thanks to ARAMARK, UNLV partnership
The UNLV Dining Commons was renovated throughout the summer and re-opened its doors to students and faculty on Aug. 25.
The completion of the commons’ renovations, which began on May 15, is the last to come from the partnership of UNLV and its food vendor, ARAMARK, to upgrade and improve every food location it operates on campus.
“We have upgraded every single place that we operate within UNLV,” said Rene Hjorth, marketing manager for ARAMARK at UNLV. “So the last place that we had not touched yet was the Dining Commons.”
Although it is the last to be completed, the renovation of the DC was part of the proposal ARAMARK made in the spring of 2010 to bid for the contract with UNLV.
“That place needed an upgrade,” Hjorth said regarding the dining commons. “It was outdated, the equipment didn’t really allow us to operate food services like a buffet. It was more of a cafeteria.”
He added that although the previous DC served its purpose in terms of being able to feed students, it did not keep up with the times of what students want to eat or how they like to eat.
With its new face, however, the commons will become part of the RFoC (Real Food on Campus) brand, which is an ARAMARK concept to standardize dining commons under the same brand in different college campuses throughout the country.
“We know that this is a very strong brand, something that resonates with students,” Hjorth said. “Therefore, we chose to put it [at UNLV] as well.”
The brand will allow for the look, feel, and food of the dining commons to mirror that of other RFoC campuses, according to Hjorth.
“I think [the new dining commons] will bring a fresh new experience for students,” said Stan Dura, residential life coordinator at the Tonopah Complex. “It’s a complete transformation, so, in some ways, it’s going to be a fresh experience for [students] and I think it will help them look at the DC in a new light.”
“In terms of how we operate food services, it has really changed from what used to be to how we want to do it now,” Hjorth said in regard to the renovation. “We want to make it much more transparent in the way we operate.”
In order to make the service and the food more “transparent,” ARAMARK expanded the DC building, took a portion of the kitchen equipment and placed it in the front where people can see whats going on with their food.
“Now we do all the cooking out so that people can see us do it,” Hjorth said.
As opposed to the previous tray line that students were accustomed to, part of the idea for the renovation was to divide the food serving system into different stations, which will not only allow people to see what is being cooked, but will also allow students and faculty to get made-to-order meals, according to Hjorth.
“There will be more staff on hand,” he said. “Before, only a few items were made to order and now they will have more of that in different stations.”
The renovation also inspired expansion in terms of other amenities the commons will be providing to students starting this upcoming semester.
“Coke has been introduced at the dining commons so that students will have Coke soda products as well as Pepsi products,” Hjorth said. “There will [also] be three TVs total, instead of just the one.”
Starting this semester, the commons will also have Wi-Fi available to students and faculty, something that was not in place before.
“There was no Wi-Fi before,” Hjorth said. “So we worked with the university and had that installed so its now available to anyone.”
Apart from the entire makeover of the dining commons, which included improvements of new floors to the bathrooms, the renovation included the placement of a new Mongolian grill as well as a bakery, where students can see their desserts being baked in front of them.
“We hope that [the students] are going to see us as a cool hang out,” Hjorth said, adding that the DC should be a place where students want to eat and hang out with friends.
In addition, the renovations expanded to include a new P.O.D. Market, a convenience store located on the south-eastern corner of the building.
“The product [at the convenient store] is more tailored towards the residents that live on campus,” Hjorth said. “[It will provide] bulk items like a case of water or a pack of soda, but will have the same products as the P.O.D. Market located in the Student Union.”
The convenience store will be available to all students and will be opened until midnight on a daily basis, according to Hjorth.
“I hear that students are incredibly excited about [the P.O.D. Market],” Dura said. “They are a little disappointed that late night changed but they’re really excited that this P.O.D. is going to be there and they can shop and get great things at night.”
Shenandoah Ellis, a Landscaping and Architecture student and National Communications Coordinator for the Residence Hall Association at UNLV said she is excited about the new P.O.D. Market being open until midnight.
“I am up late a lot at night and the other P.O.D. Market would close by the time I’d get hungry,” she said. “So now, instead of eating out, I can come here and use my dining dollars.”
Further changes within the dining commons will also be shown in the increased door rate prices for every meal, which increased by 50 cents per meal. However, the price of meal plans for students decreased.
“All meal plans have been lowered in price to create a bigger value,” Hjorth said.
He added that meal plans have also been introduced to faculty and staff members so that there are plans available just for them.
“Anybody that lives on campus or anybody that chooses to buy a meal plan gets a much better deal that they did last year,” Hjorth said.
In order to keep up with communication and reach out to students, ARAMARK and UNLV Dining have hired more people and given students the opportunity to work on campus.
“We have hired a lot more people in general,” Hjorth said. “Our goal is to be at 50 percent student employees and I believe we have already met that goal.”
Hjorth said he has been present at every student orientation event on campus, at which representatives from Human Resources have also been present to hand out employment applications to new students.
“That’s where we saw a really good opportunity to try and engage with the students,” Hjorth said. “[It] has been hugely successful.”
As part of the program to hire students, ARAMARK hired a group of four students called the “Street Team” to be brand ambassadors and be the face of UNLV Dining on campus.
“[These] job opportunities give students an easy way of staying connected to the university,” Dura said. “We know that students who connect with the university … tend to stay in school and do better in school and at the end of their college experience, they tend to appreciate it more and value their college experience.”
Contact Maria Ágreda at firstname.lastname@example.org.