Students entering on-campus restaurants may notice old decorations and paint jobs being replaced with “under construction” signs. Through next fall, Campus Dining is changing everything from interior design and timeliness to improving the quality and variety of meals offered. Additionally, an overall focus on offering healthy choices and being eco-friendly will be incorporated into the new design.
“We have to figure out who we’re serving and what they want. Students should have a strong voice,” said director of Campus Dining Thomas Welton.
Garden Grille began renovating its facilities and menu and will continue to do so throughout the year. The entire concept, from the ordering process to the kitchen and delivery of food, has been updated to reduce the previous 30-minute wait times, Welton said.
There has also been an effort to improve the quality of food served at Garden Grille. Even basic items such as the hamburger have received minor changes, such as adding spices to improve overall taste.
“We made a good burger that you could get a lot faster than before,” Welton said of the changes.
In the future, the restaurant will rotate a variety of different menu items and may have guest chefs come on advertised days to cook specialty items.
Additionally, a new walk-up dessert station will be added by September offering a variety of different choices as well as low-fat and non-fat alternatives.
The interior design of Garden Grille is in the process of being updated to look more modern. Contemporary music will play in the restaurant and flat screen televisions might be installed in the future.
Students seemed to be aware of the changes in progress, although some are not satisfied with changes that were already made.
“Honestly, I’m kinda disappointed with Garden Grille,” electrical engineering freshman Eric Horsma said. “I don’t notice a change in quality, but there is a noticeable change in price. There should be more options and smaller portions and a decreased cost.”
The patio between Garden Grille and the Sandwich Factory was also revamped; it was painted and decorated Tuscan-style with lights, heaters and new tables.
Veranda Café is undergoing similar changes. Campus Dining is focusing on decreasing the wait time as well as making the menu choices more authentic. A fresh salsa bar was added with a variety of different salsa blends for customers to choose from and the restaurant is considering additional meal plan options. The interior design of the restaurant will also have a more culinary atmosphere, so it doesn’t feel like a common cafeteria assembly line.
“We will be expediting guests quicker and more efficiently and getting them a good quality product,” Welton said.
Vista Grande Restaurant is another on-campus restaurant that will be completely redesigned. Everything from the menu to the interior will change when the project is complete. Officials will also plan entertainment and music for some weekend brunches.
“We want people to say ‘wow, this is really good food,’ ” Welton said.
Many of the smaller specialty establishments will be changing as well and new franchises will be added on campus.
Starbucks will be moved to the Julian’s location in the University Union; Julian’s will be moved to the second floor in the library, where it will continue to offer unique desserts and pastries.
“We want to keep the integrity alive and keep enhancing it,” Welton said.
Poly Canyon Village will also offer a variety of dining choices once the project is completed. This includes an Einstein Brothers, which sells bagels, sandwiches and salads.
Jamba Juice, Peet’s Coffee and a market offering bookstore items as well as fresh produce will also be included. The market will offer precooked dinner items that only have to be heated in order to eat.
All the Campus Dining facilities will focus on getting to know students by using methods such as having managers approach tables and personally interact with customers.
Restaurants will also incorporate or improve existing grab-and-go sections so students who are in a hurry can purchase food without having to wait in lines.
Many of the restaurants will also host live dining where food will be prepared for customers to see, like Backstage Pizza.
Campus Dining’s main goal is to improve all aspects of dining so that students have a more positive experience.
“I don’t think they should raise tuition to do it, but they could offer more variety, more registers and better quality food,” said environmental management sophomore Jordan Elkins.
The Fresh and Green initiative at Cal Poly is focused on saving the environment as well as providing healthy choices for students on campus. Campus Dining recycles many of its products, is polystyrene-free and purchases most of its products within California and as much as possible locally.
One of the major parts of the campaign is the use of biodiesel vehicles on campus. Presently, oil is sent to a company that converts it into energy that can be used to power three campus trucks. Eventually, the plan is that the entire process of converting the energy will be done on campus by students from the Cal Poly Biodiesel Club.
“We’ll provide oil to them and they can convert it on campus. We’re really excited about it; Cal Poly will be there ASAP,” said Alan Cushman, associate director of Campus Dining.
In order to give the biodiesel club the ability to convert oil on campus, it needs political support of other students, lab space and facilities, funding and more students to get involved in the process.
“We’re in need of a good chemist or two,” said Eric Veium, industrial engineering senior and biodiesel club president.
Veium said that using biodiesel vehicles is an important step toward achieving sustainability as well as gaining independence from former oil and improving air quality.
“It’s an excellent technology and we can make it work on campus. It is feasible economically and technologically,” Veium said.
Another element of the Fresh and Green initiative is offering healthy food choices on campus. This includes low-fat alternatives that are meatless for vegetarians, using fryer oil that does not have trans-fats and offering more fruits and vegetables on campus.
“Students deserve the best they can possibly get,” Welton said.