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Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania Dining provider: AVI Fresh

University Business, Oct 2009

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania (Pa.)

Slippery Rock diners also have a quick take-out option.

Total full-time enrollment: 8,525

Institution type: Four-year public

Total number of campus dining facilities (includes any facility serving food; please explain): eight (8) - 2 dining halls, 3 coffee shops, 1 c-store, 1 snack bar, 1 faculty/staff dining location

Number of full-service dining facilities (serving three meals a day): 2

Square footage of each main dining facility: Boozel Dining Hall - 28,188 sq. ft. (dining & production), 36,821 sq. ft. (total)

Location(s) of full-service dining facility on campus: (1) Boozel Dining Hall - 7-day operation, continuous feed 7 am to 8 pm, open kitchens (2) Rocky’s Grille - 7-day operation, 11 am to midnight, ala carte snack bar, meal equivalency, food delivery

Name of any dining services provider/s: AVI Fresh is the service provider for all food service operations on campus - board, retail, catering, and stadium concessions.

Slippery Rock University recently completed the construction of a new residential village housing 2,300 students. Boozel Dining Hall, built in 1971, had always been the secondary dining facility; but with the shift in the residential population due to the new facilities, more students began using Boozel Hall as their primary dining location. The building was not capable of providing the quality service that SRU students expect. In May 2008, a $7.5 million renovation of the facility changed an outdated dining hall into a state-of-the-art dining center. Following a very aggressive eight-month construction schedule, the facility re-opened to rave reviews in January 2009. The renovation included:

  • Addition of a 3,000 sq. ft. lobby with glass atrium to house a grab-n-go meal replacement concept, soft seating and queuing area.
  • Elimination of walls creating a more open layout and improved traffic flow.
  • Eight food stations with open kitchens featuring a Brazilian Churascco grill and smoker.
  • A variety of seating styles (diner-style countertops, high-top bar tables, communal tables, booths), bright-colored finishes and textures, new furniture and lighting in a wireless environment.
  • LCD screens to identify service lines, food items, provide nutrition information and event announcements.

Slippery Rock is known as a caring community where students needs come first. The renovated Boozel Hall is truly a student-centered facility with the emphasis on quality and service.

  • Implemented continuous services hours to give students more flexibility in their dining.
  • Dedicated a service line to individuals with food intolerances/allergies and that features food items for diners with health issues such as celiac’s disease.
  • Expanded our personalized service offerings with many made-to-order options including grilled steaks, chicken breast or salmon available for an up charge.
  • Added a meal replacement carryout option featuring an Eco-Clam Shell reusable container.
  • Provided fresh-baked pastries and cookies done in the dining room/service area.
  • Introduced a colorful, more inviting atmosphere with a restaurant feel.
  • Implemented a wireless environment with gathering spaces for groups of all sizes.
  • Created an atmosphere that has established the facility as a socialization center for the entire campus community resulting in increased usage by commuters, faculty and staff.

The facility was designed with multiple types of seating to provide options for our guests. Booths for six and eight line the exterior walls while half walls throughout the dining areas provide countertop seating complete with power supplies for laptops in a wireless environment. Communal tables with raised seating for up to 20 are available near the entrance. This seating area was designed with a low ceiling and arches to provide a comfortable intimate setting. The half walls, carpeting and cloth booth seating all help with sound absorption to make the dining area a comfortable place to have a conversation while surrounded by 800 others. A sound system was purposefully not included in the layout to eliminate the need to talk over music. A large entry lobby with both soft seating and caf? tables was provided to allow students to wait for their friends in a warm comfortable environment.

The servery was designed as open-kitchen platforms scattered about to allow free flow from one platform to another. Beverage stations were placed in each seating area to move the guests away from the servery eliminating congestion while providing easy access for refills.

SRU is committed to sustainable practices. Initiatives include:

  • Collaborating with the Macoskey Center for Sustainable Systems to collect pre-consumer waste for composting.
  • Recycling cardboard, cans and paper.
  • Purchasing produce from local farmers, thus reducing our carbon footprint.
  • Introducing recycled napkins in single serve dispensers to reduce amount of wasted napkins compared to centrally located dispensers.
  • Using the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Guide for seafood purchases.
  • Offering disposables that are greenware or contain recycled content.
  • Making re-usable Eco-tainers available for carryout options at the dining center.
  • Co-sponsoring campus wide sustainability events and educational programs.
  • The Boozel Hall renovation included many sustainability initiatives:
  • Finishes include quantities of recycled materials and VOC’s: ceiling tile has up to 70% recycled content and highly reflective surface for energy savings; countertops, adhesives and sealants are GREENGUARD Indoor Aid Quality Certified; ceramic tile contains 30-45% pre-consumer recycled content.
  • Kitchen make-up air system is variable volume to ensure optimal energy performance.
  • Lighting control consists of occupancy sensors and time of day controls.
  • Day light harvesting provided utilizing light level sensors and low voltage lighting control panel.
  • Exterior lighting controlled by astronomical time functions.

Assessment is crucial to our continued success. Daily, the management staff is visible and interacting with students. All facilities have comment cards and response boards. The managers do an excellent job of responding to students, following-up with phone calls to students who have included contact information. Each semester the management team visits every residence hall for an evening of discussion and pizza. It is an opportunity for the staff to highlight program changes and have conversations regarding suggestions and concerns. Also, once each semester we offer a “Dine with the Director” event where a group of students and staff are invited to discuss Dining Services over a catered dinner. Formal customer satisfaction surveys are conducted each semester. The spring survey, done via the web, typically elicits more than 1,200 student responses. If needed, additional surveys are conducted.

All suggestions are discussed and considered. Since this is a contract, there are some areas in which we do not have complete flexibility, i.e. the meal plan structure. AVI understands that the quality of the program is the top priority and works hard to accommodate the students’ requests. New items are introduced, menus revised, service hours changed, etc. frequently based on student input.

We believe that quality service is delivered through quality team members. We hold ourselves to very high culinary standards that we refuse to compromise. Annually, SRU hosts a culinary camp for cooks and chefs, reiterating basic skills while teaching new techniques and sessions on nutrition from one of our registered dieticians. Chefs attend quarterly culinary councils where they can network and be exposed to new products and innovations in the marketplace. All associates attend an orientation session and customer service training prior to the beginning of each school year. Third-party auditors are enlisted to assess critical aspects of our operations including safe food handling and our Mystery Shopper Program, which encompasses all aspects of the customer experience in the dining facilities.

Good customer service also includes offering the amenities our students’ desire. We have strategically located services across campus to provide the greatest access at the appropriate times. To facilitate ease of services, a pick-up window was added to our organic coffee shop located in the library. A wide variety of vegan and vegetarian options have been incorporated into all menus. Special dietary needs are addressed through the new food intolerance line or personalized counseling and service.

Dining Services plays a key role in the hospitality shown to visitors to the campus. Along with daily tours, the Admissions Office has nine formal visitation programs throughout the academic year and summer when prospective students and their parents have the opportunity to tour campus. The Admission tour guides have received training from the Dining Services staff so that as the facilities are visited they can present an accurate synopsis of the dining operations, highlighting recent renovations and program changes. A very active summer camp program brings thousands of potential students to the campus, all fed in our facilities. SRU also hosts many area athletic events, academic games, and science/math and language competitions. All visitors are encouraged to dine at one of our locations. Many campus publications feature photos and descriptions of the dining facilities.

One of the important ways that Dining Services can influence potential students (and their parents) is the quality of the program and the manner in which they are treated. The staff is known for their congeniality and great service, and they are empowered to make the customer’s dining experience memorable. All staff greet guests and are attentive to their needs.

The dining program has generated significant income for both the University and AVI Fresh, the food service contractor. It has been a great partnership that has continually operated in providing the students with the best possible service while allowing both to be financially sound. Measures have included annual adjustments to retail pricing based on the surrounding market prices, adjusting hours of operation to accommodate the customers’ desires and what they will support, and ongoing analysis of current and potential locations. AVI Fresh is committed to very high culinary standards. Pre-processed and convenience items are not served in our operations. This along with our “a la minute” preparation of foods greatly reduces the amount of waste generated during service. We empower our chefs with the ability to be creative and utilize products to their fullest. One example would be the use of fresh whole turkeys that have the breast used for the deli, the dark meat turned into a wide variety of dishes, and the roasted bones simmered into stock for homemade soups and gravy.