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Trine University (Ind.) Dining provider: Bon Appetit Management Company

University Business, Oct 2009

Trine University (Ind.)

Made-from-scratch recipes help Trine's dining services to minimize its carbon imprint.

Total full-time enrollment: 1,328

Institution type: Four-year private

Total number of campus dining facilities (includes any facility serving food; please explain): One dining facility; one clubhouse; one cafe

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

Square footage of each main dining facility10,000

Location(s) of full-service dining facility on campus: University Center

10. Name of any dining services provider/s. *

Bon Appetit

Built in 2007 and unveiled Homecoming weekend Oct. 4-6, Whitney Commons is part of Trine University’s $15.5 million, 73,000-square-foot University Center. With seating for 416, it melds clean, contemporary lines and colors with efficient use of 10,000 square feet of floor space.

The sleek, black-and-white package tiled in gray, black and white polished granite boasts contemporary style and spaciousness. Unique, trendy signage directs diners to several food stations: international, American, Italian and deli express. Bon Appetit’s gourmet culinary team provides menus based on student input. The executive food service company provides made-from-scratch recipes from local meat, dairy, poultry, and produce vendors for the freshest ingredients with the lowest carbon imprint on the environment. Diners relax in comfort at tables or in black banquettes lining windowed bump-outs with a view of the campus athletic fields and student apartments. Another full glass wall faces the atrium area of the University Center mall area, with a view passing students, colorful international flags and palms, and football stadium.

Whitney Commons diners enjoy a diverse mix of contemporary music from WEAX, Trine’s radio station. High ceilings diffuse sound to a comfortable volume, creating background music to the students’ lively chatter. Tables of different sizes allow dining in groups large or small. Banquettes provide cushioned comfort. A central station for drinks, desserts, and fresh fruits anchors the room, making a convenient stop after visiting the various food stations along the outer walls. Traffic flows smoothly with a minimum of waiting, as the placement of the food stations routes diners efficiently.

From the beginning of the Trine University/Bon Appetit partnership, the dining services provider has employed sustainability initiatives to ensure services cover a broad base of customer tastes while satisfying national food and nutrition trends and environmental needs. The company’s Farm to Fork program invests in the health of the community by purchasing seasonal produce from farmers within a 150-mile radius. Producers who use sustainable farming practices which nourish and replenish land and who steer away from pesticides, hormones and antibiotics, are chosen. Buying locally helps the environment by reducing the carbon imprint made by shipping produce long distances, and ensures that the Trine and local communities can eat well today and tomorrow. Bon Appetit’s support of local growers and humane and sustainable farming practices melds well with Trine University’s stance of enriching the local and world communities through its business practices.

Our head chef makes a suggestion box accessible, and the culinary staff also takes word-of-mouth menu suggestions from students. The chef also takes student input on new creations. They also collect favorite recipes from students’ homes and offer one each week as a menu choice, with credit to the family. They wrap up the program with a contest to choose the winning home recipe. An Insight Committee made up of the dining service general manager, head chef, director of student life and 8-10 students meet biweekly on selection and quality issues. Students can purchase 10- or 19-meal plans, plus flex dollars, loaded onto a student ID card. Commuters can purchase a block of 50 meals to use any time. Students unable to eat within the regular hours of operation due to a class or work schedule can take advantage of a box lunch program. A sandwich or salad of choice, condiments, bottled water, fruit, chips and cookies are included in the box lunch. Express Caf? has extended hours 7 a.m.-10 p.m. during the week, allowing diners to pick up Starbuck’s coffee, smoothies, sandwiches, salads, pastries and desserts at their convenience. A select grill menu is available in the evenings.

To ensure superior customer service, Trine’s culinary team adheres to the high personnel, food, cleanliness, and safety standards set down by Bon Appetit’s Great Expectations program. Well-trained managers and staff ensure that the company’s routine inspections find Trine’s dining service exceeding the standard. Staff members are certified for food preparation and service, and wear uniforms with security badges, name badges and aprons. Appearance and demeanor are friendly, neat, and professional. The kitchen staff uses healthy cooking techniques and ingredients in everyday food preparation. Healthy menu items are mainstream offerings. At least one in-balance or low-fat entr?e is served per meal at lunch and dinner, and at least one deep color vegetable is served daily at full service stations. Cleaning schedules and health department reports are continually scrutinized. Logs are filed for the temperature of walk-ins, receiving areas, dishwashers, and food on the line, while steam table equipment temperature is tested and calibrated. At least once a week, lead station employees complete forms confirming the various stations are up to Bon Appetit’s standards.

Trine hosted nearly 1,700 prospective students on campus over this last year, with an estimated 80 percent, and another 2,000 parents and guests, dining in Whitney Commons. Formal feedback from follow-up surveys and the informal feedback during monthly campus visit days have been overwhelmingly positive. Comments center on the remarkable number of food choices, the all-you-can-eat format, excellent quality and freshness of the food and clean, open and friendly atmosphere. Customer service is highly evident, from the warm welcome provided by the greeters at the main entrance to the professionalism of the servers behind the counters. Some of our most popular group visit day programs are theme-related , and the dining hall staff works with us closely to develop menus reflecting themes such as Holiday Frenzy, Luau in January, and Women’s Visit Day. Parents give positive feedback when they compare their alma mater’s dining experience 20 years ago with what Trine University provides students today. The University Center and Whitney Commons receive center stage on our Web site and promotional publications. The University’s dining experience is always mentioned as one of our leading strengths in providing a complete residential experience.

Bon Appetit has cost-cutting measures in place and plans others to ensure Trine’s food service remains financially sustainable. To reduce waste, food servers encourage the tasting of dishes before serving up portions, and control portion size by offering small, medium and large options. For two weeks this year, Trine’s Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Knowledge (SPEAK) group measured and posted the amount of food waste, challenging fellow students to reduce it. Students responded by eating what they took or taking smaller portions. Meal prices are based on the Consumer Price Index. A possible partnership to offer service to the local hospital and other cafeterias to collectively cut cost, and the purchase of land for growing the company’s own produce are in discussion.