Originally published in On-Campus Hospitality | When the Student Union Servery at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSUIT) in Okmulgee was renovated recently, the new equipment was chosen to improve the experience for both students and staff.
“The main purpose of updating the equipment in my mind was to provide the staff more time to spend on food prep and presentation instead of cleaning and repair and maintenance on equipment and facilities,” said James Byrd, director of Student Union and Auxiliary Services. “They have a lot of the newer equipment, and the way we have the facility laid out, there is a lot less time required for maintenance and cleaning, so they spend a lot more time on food prep and presentation, which has worked out really well for our students and customers.”
The Student Union was originally built in 1989. “The building itself has been kept up in great shape over the years, but over the last three years, we have been updating the dining area, totally renovating it,” he said. “This last project was to renovate the serving area for our cafeteria. We went in, removed the ceiling, wallboard, flooring, laid a new drainage system — a complete renovation with all new equipment.”
The dining area features a grill, salad bar, a hot line, a sandwich line and areas for snacks, ice cream and beverages. “The renovated area is where our customers and students come in to purchase the food items and where they go into the dining room to sit and eat,” said Byrd.
New fryers and a new automated grill were among the equipment purchased. “With most of the equipment, we were looking to increase our ability to produce food more quickly and safer and more conveniently,” he said. “Before the renovation, we replaced equipment as we needed to, but a lot of the equipment was old technology. Most of the newer equipment that we have now is automated to where you program menus into the equipment, and there is a lot less room for being inconsistent with how you cook it.”
“It provides the ability to offer more items made to order, where before it was one type of grill and equipment that didn’t necessarily work to hold cold food,” said Hayley Holmes, campus food services manager. “Now there are multiple items at the grill and it is made to order. There is no food being premade and packaged up and sitting for 10-15 minutes. Nobody wants to eat that.”
The new grill has sped up the time it takes to make a burger. “The grill we had in the past took a little over eight minutes to cook a hamburger or a sandwich, and now we can do it in under two minutes,” said Byrd. “We also have warmers and freezers in the grill area where we can store product, and instead of going back to our storage area to retrieve more product, it is there at the area that we serve. It is much more convenient for our staff, and our customers aren’t having to wait as long.”
The new vent hood system, from CaptiveAire, is also a major upgrade. “The vent that we purchased in our grill area is self-cleaning,” he said. “It has its own fire suppression system built into the vent hood, which is separate from the facility. That is a big plus, too.”
Other equipment that has been an improvement includes wall-mounted flatware holders from BSI. “At the entrance where our customers enter the serving area, we have inserts in the walls where we have logoed trays,” said Byrd. “Right past that we have the wall-mounted flatware holders. It has helped keep our floor space cleared and helped the traffic through the serving area move much faster. Plus, I think it looks very nice.”
Students have noticed that the newer equipment has led to fresher food. “The students have really enjoyed it,” said Holmes. “We wondered if they would have a problem with having to stand around a bit for items at the grill, but pretty much their response is, ‘Hey, we know it is fresh and made right there in front of us, so we’ll wait.’ They don’t mind.”
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