August 13, 2008

Dining options expanding at Student Center

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Student Center at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will be home this fall to a wide variety of new dining options.

A new 10-year contract with Chartwells Educational Dining continues the company’s 11-year history with SIUC but provides for many new and different restaurants in the first-floor food court. The Student Center sought proposals from dining businesses and ultimately chose the Chartwells proposal based on the financial investment and the ability to serve the University community, said Lori Stettler, Student Center director.

“The big difference is the food concepts they’re bringing to the food court,” Stettler said.

Blimpies Subs and Salads and Chick-fil-A are part of the massive remodeling and transformation. Joining them in the food court are Chef Yan Can Cook, an Asian concept restaurant created by the popular PBS cook; Rio Frontego, a fast-food Mexican restaurant; and Tomato Head Red, featuring such fare as pizza and calzones. Roots will offer homestyle cooking, described by Stettler as “comfort food.” Starbucks and McDonald’s remain, but the rest of the food court is getting a complete facelift. Freshens, the ice cream and frozen yogurt place, will become Freshens Energy Zone with expanded options, including energy drinks.

Student Center visitors will notice another big change too. By popular demand, a convenience store is coming to the spot near the bottom of the first-floor stairs where the old information desk stood. As school begins this fall, there’s going to be a contest giving students the opportunity to select the name for the new convenience store. Meanwhile, the information desk has moved into the north hallway across from the escalators.

It’s a new look and new choices and it’s all in response to surveys to determine what students want, Stettler said.

“We’re giving students a variety of low to moderate cost choices,” Stettler said. She said the plan accommodates all sorts of eating preferences as well as student budgets.

Chartwells is making a significant financial investment in the project, Stettler noted. The business is contributing $1.1 million toward the renovation and refurbishing project. The Student Center is chipping in $500,000.

The renovation has been taking place one piece at a time in recent weeks and will continue into the new semester so it won’t interrupt dining services, according to Stettler.

“The food court will still be open,” Stettler said. “We’ll just be opening the new places in phases. We hope to have everything finished by the time the spring semester starts in January.”

That’s not the end of the changes though. Along with the new food concepts comes a change in management. Matthew Kent has assumed the role of director of Food Service Operations and brings many years of university dining experience to the Student Center. There’s also a new catering manager, Kelly Simovski.

“We’re looking forward to a great catering relationship with Chartwells and the University to provide the food and drinks for all kinds of events from cookies and coffee to upscale dinners and events,” Stettler said. “We will definitely exceed people’s expectations.”

The ever-popular Old Main Restaurant is adding more options and will also offer more cooking demonstrations, Stettler added. The buffet with soup and salad options is very popular with faculty and staff and it’ll be even more appealing now, she said.

There’s one other little surprise on tap. Within the newly renovated and expanded Morris Library, a coffee commons will open featuring coffee, specialty drinks and snacks for library visitors. There’s no definite timetable for its opening as yet but it’s got a name -- “Delyte’s.” And yes, the “delights” pun is intended. One suspects the late University President Delyte Morris would be delighted.