Students can expect an upgraded dining experience this fall after Bob’s Dining Hall goes through a full renovation this summer.
“This cafeteria will be up to par with any foodservice at any large university in the nation,” said Alan Coker, Assistant Vice President of Auxiliary Services, who helped negotiate the contract for the remodel.
Coker said the new design will include an increase in the size of the main dining hall, new flooring, a wider variety of seating options, updates to the serving area layout and the addition of a stage.
Mike Thomsen, the Sodexo General Manager at UI, said the color palette will include Vandal colors.
“It sounds kind of dark when I say grays and blacks and golds, but it’s actually going to lighten the place up as well,” Thomsen said.
He said this is partially because new laminate floors, which look like hardwood, will replace the current dark carpet.
Altogether, the remodel will cost around $1 to $1.1 million, which is typical for this degree of change, Coker said.
Coker said the wall between the Quiet Room and the rest of Bob’s has been torn down to provide more space for students. In place of the old meeting room, there will be a similar but smaller chamber that holds around 20 people.
“We have a lot of space in there in the Quiet Room that was being used by groups that were like 12 to 15 (in size),” he said.
Thomsen said they brought in students during the spring semester to help choose a design and ensure students’ needs would be met. He said most of the students agreed about what they wanted and didn’t want to be done.
“It was definitely student validated,” Thomsen said.
He said the renovations will not only make Bob’s a nicer place to be, but also increase efficiency, save energy and allow for more dining options. He said this includes switching the Simple Servings option with the vegetarian and vegan option, which will reduce traffic, better segregate allergen-free foods and provide more room for vegetarian and vegan.
“Right now, there’s a vegan or a vegetarian option every day,” he said. “Our goal is to offer a vegan and a vegetarian, because basically vegans show up and some days it’s only vegetarian and so they can’t — it’s not an option for them.”
He said there will also be a new stone-fired oven for the pizza area and a charbroiler for meat.
Thomsen said the renovations are happening now in part because Coker, who took over the duties of negotiating food service contracts, was open to the idea and saw the need to upgrade. Coker said university dining also recently received a $2 million increase from Sodexo as a capital investment.
“It comes down to improving the student experience and basically giving the students what they want, and realizing once again that the students on a university campus are the customers,” Coker said about the renovations.
This is not the only major contract Coker has worked on in his time at the university. Last year, Coker successfully negotiated a contract with Coca-Cola, helping UI transition from Pepsi for the first time in 15 years.
Now, Coker said he is negotiating contracts to bring Dunkin Donuts and Qdoba Mexican Grill onto the university and hopes to finish the negotiations by next summer. He said he is also working to change the Vandal Express convenience store in the Commons into another Grid for continuity between stores.
Nina Rydalch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NinaRobin7