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Self-Operated Program Winner: Bates College (Maine)

University Business, Oct 2009

Self-Operated Program Winner:

Culinary staff are never far from students who have a concern or want to pay compliments to the chef.

Bates College (Maine)

Total full-time enrollment: 1,776

Institution type: Four-year private

Total number of campus dining facilities (includes any facility serving food; please explain): One full-service dining hall. 2 snack bars.

Number of full-service dining facilities (serving three meals a day): 1

Square footage of each main dining facility: 60,000 square feet

Location(s) of full-service dining facility on campus: New Commons

Name of any dining services provider/s: None

New Commons, which cost $24 million, opened February 25 2008. This is new construction. Groundbreaking was in October 10, 2006.

The spirit of communal dining ? taking all meals all together ? is incredibly strong and distinctive at Bates. In planning for a new dining hall in 2005, we held public meetings open to the entire community. At these gatherings, our students took the lead. Speaking as one, they urged architect Sasaki Associates to create a facility that would continue the tradition of dining together.

At the same time, we built a facility where cooks and servers can excel in their work ? our cramped old dining hall greatly hampered our staff ? and help our students enjoy nourishing food with good friends and great conversation.

Consistent with Bates values, New Commons had to be environmentally friendly: It was built equivalent to LEED Silver standards. Planners were also very intentional in incorporating new with old:

  • The main seating area is the same volume/size as the prior facility with a similar vaulted ceiling;
  • We reused many tables from the prior facility;
  • The new facility offers multiple seating arrangements that mimic those in the old;
  • We kept the old food favorites, but because of the new technology in the new facility we were able to add many new and exciting offerings.

New Commons features a platform concept with seven offerings: Brick Oven, Salad Bar, Deli, Pasta, Euro Station, Grill and Vegan. The center of the server is the “round,” consisting of the brick oven, pasta station, deli area (with artisan breads) and salad.

The other platforms are on the outside of the server, making for a very easy flow of traffic: It can easily handle 500 people in a 30 to 45 minute period. Combine that with open seating areas on two levels ? each featuring many different combinations and styles of seating such as booth, two tops, four tops, eight tops, 10 tops, rounds, rectangles and squares ? and you have a very appealing dining environment.

We consciously tried to mirror some of the features in the old facility as it was very dear to many individuals. This was done through the design of the main seating area which in size and volume mimics the previous facility with its vaulted ceilings.

As individuals and as an institution, our food choices ? see ? play a key role in supporting Bates’ institutional commitment to sustainability. Also see We were the only collegiate dining services to win a Renew America award for our sustainability efforts (1999) and were among the very first college members of the Green Restaurant Association. Other points (implementation in 2008, except where noted):

  • We have no dumpster; 82 percent of waste is diverted from the waste stream: sent to a pig farmer, composted or recycled (1996).
  • 30 percent of total food budget is spent locally; we purchase from Maine farms that in turn are committed to the spectrum of sustainability.
  • New Commons is self-ventilated, uses 100 percent Maine renewable electricity and employs an Energy Star?rated system.
  • The main ceiling features reclaimed wood.
  • Grease recovery system allows sale of used oil to biodiesel producer.
  • Recycled-content carpeting.
  • Richlite countertops.
  • Motion-activated lighting system.
  • Many local products used in finishes.
  • Local brick.
  • Many purveyors use reusable containers.
  • No garbage disposals on sinks.
  • Reusable mugs eliminate paper products in student dining (2006).
  • Dual-flush toilets reduce flush water by two-thirds.
  • Our “Napkin Board” (suggestion board) is distinctive. We offer both handwritten and virtual versions with plenty of personality and “voice” to engage students.
  • Food Advisory Committee, composed of faculty, students and staff, meets twice a month to discuss food-related issues.
  • Director has open-door policy.
  • Managers spend a lot of time on the floor talking with students (we call it “Face Time”).
  • Platform concept puts the culinary staff out front with the students and is a great conduit for communication. It also strengthens the Bates tradition of students forging and valuing relationships with a range of Bates adults in their lives.
  • Leading by example

Bates features only one major dining location and no student center. By default, our dining hall ? the old facility and now New Commons ? is the center of student interaction. New Commons includes meeting rooms, a snack bar, huge notice boards and a fireside lounge. This is where prospective students and their families get the best taste of Bates life. Here, we have fostered not only an excellent culinary program but pride ourselves on our attention to customer needs.

Students often describe the “family” feel of Commons, a place like their dining room or kitchen at home. The entire culture of Bates Dining Services is very open, friendly and engaging, and we believe this quality makes us very different from our peers. This differentness is very attractive to both parents and students, especially so because they recognize that our area offers very few dining alternatives near the campus. We basically have a captive audience. It is the ability of our dining operation to provide this level of comfort, outstanding food offerings and personal service that is an asset to the student recruitment process.

  • We received a $2.5 million endowment gift in 2008, the proceeds of which we can use to increase our local, natural and organic food purchases. See
  • We decreased the number of deliveries we receive, allowing us to negotiate a better contract from our prime vendor.
  • We buy in bulk as much as possible and because we are a self-operated dining services, we can change our menus quickly if there is a need to respond to unexpected increases or decreases in commodity prices.
  • We take advantage of aftermarket buying opportunities
  • We have sought out opportunities, both internally and externally, to partner with others to harness the benefits of combined purchasing.
  • We buy locally in season when prices are extremely competitive, process items and store for use during months when the product is either not available of cost prohibitive.

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