Sipping a latte, sending a batch of instant messages, stopping to pick up cash, scheduling a weekend trek, and later settling in for an evening of music with friends — all within walking distance.
A vacation resort? A pedestrian village? Perhaps, but just as likely these activities and many more take place on many university campuses, designed and renovated dramatically to be more student-centered than they were 50 or even 20 years ago.
At the heart of this change is a new approach to the student union building. The student union is a highlight when new recruits, families and parents first visit a campus. The union has become an attractive tool for recruiting and retention — for students, faculty and staff.
Universities spend significant amounts of money to provide kitchen and serving facilities in student unions. They are designing “rapid response” food-service areas that can be remodeled quickly and inexpensively to adapt to changing student preferences.
Food service at student unions is a good example of student preference changes. Many students are not interested in dining in huge cafeteria spaces and are drawn to smaller, varied, restaurant-style spaces with a more appealing ambience. These spaces can be used outside peak dining hours with designs that allow the areas to function as lounges or meeting areas. Acoustics, space planning, finishes and fixtures can give flexibility to a dining space.
Different food-service concepts and venues require different equipment. Schools should be able to modify food-service components easily. Plug-in components can be changed more easily than built-ins. Clustering four to five different restaurant venues around or above a large, central production kitchen also can help diversify and reduce equipment costs for food service. Smaller serving kitchens, supported by a central kitchen, can be placed adjacent to these different venues, and provide varied food and beverage service.