After just two weeks, the Garden Grille has proved popular with both new and returning students.
The restaurant, formerly the Lighthouse, is a temporary dining establishment that has experimented with higher quality food at varied prices. The Garden Grille will close at the end of the school year for about two years while a new, permanent dining facility is built.
Successful concepts from the Grille will be kept while other ideas will be altered to maximize satisfaction among students.
“This last year, we introduced the five meal dining plan and significantly less customers were coming to the Lighthouse,” said Alan Cushman, the associate director of Campus Dining. “Only 50 people were coming in for lunch on any given day. Dinnertime was only a few hundred.”
By providing “higher quality, fresher items,” the Garden Grille has won back many returning students who never returned to the Lighthouse after freshman year.
“We ate here last year at Lighthouse,” Brian Flack, a civil engineering sophomore, said. “This food’s a lot better, but it’s a lot more expensive. But it’s worth it though. I go with quality over quantity for food.”
Social science senior Barbara Van Nostrand “loves the Garden Grille,” and said Campus Dining should “do free meals for the second through fourth years to get over the trauma of the Lighthouse.”
The good word has spread about the Garden Grille, and many returning students are giving the dining hall a second try.
“I got the grilled cheese and fries,” Van Nostrand said. “I thought it was really good, much better than the Lighthouse grilled cheese. I had a plastic wrapper on my grilled cheese at Lighthouse freshman year. The plastic wrapper was still on the cheese and I was totally traumatized and never ate it again.”
The interior of the Garden Grille has a more outdoor feel. Green plants and patio tables with umbrellas were brought in to give the room less of a cafeteria look. The cashiers were relocated to a gazebo in the middle of the dining room.
While students still order food at different stations, the food is now prepared on the spot.
“We decided to take the opportunity to take the interim concept and learn from that and gain as much data and info on that,” Cushman said. “When we do the multi-million dollar project, we’ll have a much better idea of what Cal Poly students are actually wanting and having our staff prepared to respond.”
The serving areas include stations for salad, hand-rolled wraps, hand-carved meats, pasta and grilled foods. All foods are priced differently and the buffet concept was removed.
Campus Dining considered building a separate dining facility until the new dining structure, 19 Market Place, opens in two years. But with a cost of $2 million for a temporary place, the idea was scratched.
Cushman said 19 Market Place will look “totally different.”
“The kitchen will be in the middle of the dining room,” he said. “The idea is that all the production will be in front of the customer. Right now, it’s just the servery with the four windows and the grill.”
The entrance to the new structure would be through the Sandwich Factory patio and could include multi-level decking.
All meals at the 19 Market Place, like the Garden Grille, will be cooked to order.