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DWU dining options find another gear

Upgrades to the Rollins Campus Center dining area at Dakota Wesleyan University include new flooring and seating, along with updated dining options. DWU and food service provider Fresh Ideas are entering the first year of a five-year contract for dining on campus and renovations to the dining hall were done in conjunction with the change. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

It’s a new provider, new food, and a new look for the dining options at Dakota Wesleyan University.

The university is rolling out a revamped food service operation this month, as students and faculty get into place for the first day of fall classes on Aug. 21. DWU and Fresh Ideas, a Missouri-based provider, reached an agreement earlier this summer to provide food services starting in 2018-19.

The changes resulted in a 2,400-square-foot expansion to the university’s dining area — the Weston Food Court — located on the second floor of the Rollins Campus Center at the heart of the DWU campus.

The changes in who is providing the food and where it’s being served have allowed for some excitement among students ahead of the new year, said DWU Executive Vice President Theresa Kriese.  

“Students never remember if (food is) mediocre,” Kriese said. “They remember if it’s really great or really bad and we want to be on the great side. We want it to be an experience, not just sit down and shovel the food in and get on your way.”

The renovations opened up more options for DWU dining. The facility, which is all-you-can-eat, has a number of stations. Trattoria, for example, is a station in which Italian-inspired dishes like pizza, pasta and calzones are created. There’s also a live cooking station in the middle of the serving areas in which dishes such as stir fry or burrito bowls can be created in front of diners. Another area will have vegetarian options available, as well, while DWU will continue to have homestyle, and grill-like options on hand, too.

Mitchel Pinkelman, the new director of dining services, said it’s important the products draw an interest from students.

“We’re trying to create that interaction with the students and we’ll have a chef here, and there will be a lot of expos and ways to get in front of the students and show them what we have to offer,” he said. “We want them to know that we’re here to serve them.”

The university did not renew its long-standing dining contract with Aramark. Kriese said that when DWU knew it would change dining providers, it allowed a good chance to upgrade the look of the dining hall, as well. The eastern half of the new dining space was previously used for meetings or overflow dining areas, which opened DWU’s capacity for hungry students.

“We’ve opened it way up,” Kriese said. “There’s all new textures: floor, ceiling, colors. … We knew we had to make a facelift and we knew that this would be a good time to do so.”

The change also resulted in a few upgrades to the Tiger Cafe, the coffee and snack outlet located in the McGovern Library. Fresh Ideas and DWU will also unveil a mobile app that will allow students to order items such as sandwiches or coffee ahead to be picked up at the dining sites when they arrive. That is expected to be rolled out in September, Pinkelman said.

Another upgrade is a large digital screen outside the primary entrance to the facility, which will have the ability to display menus and promotions, but also show off what’s happening on campus.

Weekday hours are 7 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., and dinner from 4:45 to 7 p.m. Weekend offerings include brunch and dinner.

“You’d want that time they’re going to spend in here to be enjoyable,” Pinkelman said. “That’s what we’re going for and we’re going to do our best to make sure they have a positive experience.”