WELCOME. (l. to r.) Debra Lee, Jane GrantShambaugh and Janet Paul-Rice at the entrance to the new Anderson Dining Room at Concordia College.
Custom mill work for the servery's counter facades give them a contemporary, natural appearance.
The warewashing machine used at Concordia features heat reclamation reduce energy use and has a chemical saving system to reduce long term operating costs.
OUT OF SIGHT, BUT NOT OUT OF MIND. This floor plan shows how the stand-alone warewashing room (bottom, center) has been integrated into the main floor area of the new Anderson Dining Room.
Look at a new or renovated college servery, and what do you see? A modified scatter system design? The inevitable stir-fry station, deli counter, grill and carvery? Display cases and countertops that beckon with contemporary colors, materials and lighting?
The fact is, most new cafes today tend to have many of the same design features, if only because the functional demands and tastes of their customer bases are similar. But look closer, behind the facades and retail ambience of these same cafes and you will often find significant differences among them. In truth, some of their most important features and innovations are not readily apparent to the casual eye.
Real innovation is inevitably the result of a coordinated design team thought and planning, and that is a much rarer occurrence in the real world of institutional building design and construction. Foodservice facilities are too often treated as secondary spaces, with their functional needs considered only after major space allocations have been made, budgets set and architectural features established.
In contrast, if a servery or kitchen is designed from the ground up with ongoing input from a foodservice department, it can result in not only attractive stations and faeades but also the kind of features that bring efficiency and flexibility for the short and longer term. The Anderson Dining Room, scheduled to open this month at Concordia College's new, $30 million Knutson Campus Center, is a fine example of the latter.
For returning students and faculty, it offers a dramatically improved dining experience and ambience. But for the institution and for the future, the new design offers significant utility cost savings, central production efficiencies and equipment and spacial flexibility that will permit it to satisfy changing customer tastes and institutional needs for decades to come.
Functionality, Flexibility and efficiency
Like many college capital projects, this one was a long time in the planning stages. Originally proposed in 2000, the Anderson Hall project evolved in several iterations and under two separate administrations. One constant, though, was that dining services. It was involved in the planning process from the beginning, says Jane Grant-Shambaugh, Concordia's director of auxiliary services, represented by a team comprised of GrantShambaugh and Director of Dining Services Debra Lee and and Associate Director Janet Paul Rice.
"In many ways, through all of the changes, we operated as the leads for the entire project," says Grant-Shambaugh. "Each of us has our own areas of expertise in terms of people management, procurement, production and menu development skills, as well as project management skills.
"Working together, we were able to bring all the vested parties to the table in the planning process from our administration to the design team to the operating staff who helped us evaluate the practicality of many of our ideas before they were adopted."
Concordia's existing main dining room had been located in the basement of Bishop Whipple Hall for 115 years. That was a windowless space with low ceilings, an antiquated mechanical and utility infrastructure and kitchen at a different level than the dining facility. A short order restaurant and c-store were located elsewhere in the complex, which on the main floor was comprised of four buildings, one of them an aging wood structure that was deteriorating badly.
"The thinking was that the school needed a new campus center that would integrate dining facilities with student programming and conference space," says Grant-Shambaugh.
"We were aiming for functionality and also many kinds of efficiencies ranging from labor utilization to energy savings to physical space that could serve multiple uses," she says. Thus, when the servery is closed off at night, the dining room remains open as an extension of the community center, where students study and socialize together. Similarly, the center's new conference facilities will be able to readily take advantage of dining's upgraded food production capabilities.
"We wanted to ensure there would be very little need for major remodels of this space in the future, even if trends or the needs of the college change," says Grant-Shambaugh.
Efforts to improve energy efficiency were a good example of that, she adds. Like many foodservices which are not metered directly in terms of their energy usage, "these are operational costs that will be borne by the institution over the years, not always directly by a department such as ours."
A Complex mix
By participating in the design team from start, dining services was able to ensure that most of its own production and service needs were considered at every step along the way. And for a school its size, those needs are more complex than they might first appear.
When the new facility opens this fall, Concordia's single kitchen will serve the production needs of its residential dining hall, catering and a variety of contracted foodservices the department manages. According to Associate Director Janet Paul Rice, these include foodservices for a psychiatric hospital, several day care centers, a meals on wheels operation and some congregate sites. Altogether, about 700 lunches and 120 dinners a day are served at eight different off-campus locations.
A main goal for the new dining hall has been to offer resident students significantly greater menu variety than was possible in the old facility. There are eleven different food and beverage stations, each with a core menu and special menus that rotate on different cycles. Most of these are typical "must haves" in the college environment, according to Paul Rice: a salad bar, grill, deli counter, and so on. The exception is a novel concept called the "Explore Station".
Despite the interest in offering variety and more fresh-prepared food, "we are still a traditional school with common class breaks and very large peak demands at noon and six PM," Paul Rice says. "It is typical to serve 700 people in a 45-minute window, so made-to-order stations are not very practical in our demand cycle."
Other than the deli and grill stations, food production is managed in small batches so that customers see it is fresh-prepared, but batch volumes can be quickly varied to match ongoing demand. Even the deli has ready-to-go sandwiches for those who don't have time to wait. Service style is residential, not retail, so this doesn't really represent "grab-and-go" in the traditional sense, she says, "but is more ‘grab and consume quickly.'"
Even though the new facility represents a significant expansion over the existing operation, storage and kitchen production space remains tight.
"Over the course of our planning, our need to coordinate food flows—from purchasing and receiving to how it will move through the facility and into service—received a lot of attention," Paul Rice says.
Advance menu and production planning looked to accommodate such factors wherever possible. For example, all hot food production for the contract service accounts will take place in the new campus center, "but there is not enough space there to accommodate prep and portioning of the cold components, so that will take place in an existing lower level where we will still have our ingredient storage and salad prep," she says. That is where contract food staging will take place as the hot and cold food production flows are combined for transport.
In the servery, backup stock for many menu items will be stored right at the serving station, without reserve stocks in the storeroom.
"When unique menu item ingredients are used up, the item will go off rotation and the next item in the rotation will start," she explains. "They won't be re-stocked until the item is again scheduled to rotate. This will help reduce inventory and space requirements."
The servery space and equipment layout was also configured for maximum flexibility. Every piece of equipment that can be on casters is, and where it was possible to forecast demand patterns that will produce wait queues (like the grill and condiment stations,) additional floor space was allotted for that purpose. Because some station equipment will also be used for catering production, it had to be sized carefully for what in that case will represent a different demand and production pattern.
A unique feature of the floor plan involved the placement of the ware washing equipment. As is typically the case, the dish room and accumulator belt had to be positioned near the dining hall's exit, but due to space characteristics that would have interfered with traffic flow.
Instead, it was placed centrally, as a standalone room in that end of the dining hall. This opened up additional perimeter wall and window space and also provided new wall space around the dish room itself, which was used for a beverage counter and breakfast bar. The room was double insulated to reduce noise, configured with its own ventilation system and outfitted with a state of the art ware washing machine.
Grant-Shambaugh believes the dining hall will contribute significantly to Concordia's recruitment and retention goals . "Our priorities were about more than just driving efficiencies for dining services' needs," she says.
"The design you see here will reduce long term operating costs for the institution and enhance the school's ability to more effectively present itself to potential students, their families and friends of the college."
at a glance
Smaller schools face particular challenges when it comes to matching the menu and station variety made possible by huge oncampus resident and commuter populations at large state schools. Menu rotations go part of the way to addressing the demands for variety voiced by today's onsite customers, but many stations by their design are limited in the types of food they can offer.
"We wanted one station that wasn't dedicated to any particular cuisine or style of food, but which had the flexibility to be configured to provide out of the ordinary offerings that change on a regular basis," Associate Director Janet Paul Rice says. "That was the thinking that led us to what we call our ‘Explore Station.' Its menu will change six times this year and will range from spa cuisine and street-style Mexican food to crepe station offerings and foods indigenous to Minnesota."
On the equipment side, the station features a wok, a rice cooker, a flat-top grill and charcooker. Refrigerated storage is placed within easy reach of the chef and can be resupplied from the back, out of the customers' view. Serving wells are configured in two units, one with two and one with three wells, and each unit can be either hot or cold. Tile inserts and casserole dishes give them a retail presentation appearance.
"Everything about this station was designed so that its production flow could be changed down the road as required," says designer Albin Khouw. "We wanted to provide menu flexibility for things no one even considers today."
That meant high energy-consuming devices like the ware-washing station, ovens and ventilation systems were evaluated carefully. She notes that the campus has a well-run steam plant and that they sought to use steam as a heat source where it was feasible, but also "to plan in electric redundancy for times when the steam plant is shut down for scheduled maintenance."
Other equipment criteria included labor savings over time; thus, ultraviolet exhaust filter technology was specified to reduce filter and duct grease buildup and longer term maintenance costs.
According to Albin Khouw, the senior vice president of Porter Consulting who was the foodservice designer on the project, a flighttype warewashing machine was specified that features insulated, double-wall construction to reduce noise and retain heat. It also has a waste heat recovery system that reclaims thermal energy from the machine and uses it to preheat water coming in to the wash tank so incoming supply water does not have to be preheated. The unit also employs a novel chemical reduction system that diverts clean water into the wash and pre-wash sections of the machine, reducing the need for supplemental detergent by up to 30 percent.
Another notable energy-saving component is the variable-speed exhaust controller used in the ventilation hood over the charbroiler, grill and wok, says Khouw. Using it, the exhaust fan speed varies between 30 percent and full power and is controlled by optic sensors on the end of the hood and a thermal sensor in the duct collar. When the thermal sensor signals that cooking activities are underway, fan speed increases to 60 percent; when the optic sensors sense smoke in the exhaust stream, the controller brings the fan speed up to 100 percent.
"In operation, the system adapts continuously to the peaks and valleys of college dining meal periods," says Khouw, with the added benefit that noise levels are reduced at the lower fan speeds.
A return-on-investment evaluation indicates that the exhaust controller will generate combined heating, cooling and motor operating cost savings of about $11,000 per year for a payback in 2.7 years. and a 32 percent ROI over 10 years.