Huntington University will unveil its newly renovated Habecker Dining Commons as students return to the classroom on August 31. The grand opening and dedication ceremony will take place in front of the lower level entrance of the dining commons at 11:00 a.m. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will take place in the upper level of the dining commons.
Renovations began on May 18, 2015, and were completed during the summer recess. Featured upgrades of the renovated dining commons include a more open serving area, a redesigned dining section, a pizza oven and digital menu boards.
A few of the food stations, such as the salad and soup and deli sandwich bars, have been relocated to the dining area to enable a more accessible serving area. Each station within the serving area is now self-contained with its own refrigeration and preparation areas. This arrangement will allow diners to see the made-to-order food prepared in front of them and Sodexo employees to work in a more organized space.
Senior Director of Human Resources and Operations Julie Hendryx said the set-up will allow students to get meals faster, and that the arrangement will give Sodexo the ability to create a higher-quality food.
“With the new layout, more items will be made-to-order, allowing for a fresher, better product,” said Blair Stairs, the general manager of the HU Sodexo dining service team. Another menu change, Stairs said, will include homemade soups.
Hendryx, who served as the project manager, said discussions on renovating the existing Habecker Dining Commons started when Dr. Sherilyn Emberton became Huntington University president in 2013. Hendryx said Dr. Emberton realized that the dining commons was “out of date” and limited Sodexo’s ability to prepare and present food in an appealing manner.
“The redesign of Habecker Dining Commons contemporizes the dining experience for students, staff and faculty,” Emberton said. “Students should have more fresh dining options with additional preparation stations that give students options on diet and health.”
The digital signage will also display nutritional information for the current menu on each food station.
The dining area’s redesign includes new tables, chairs, carpeting and wall paint and décor. One wall features a photo collage of HU students – past and present – in chronological order as they participate in on-campus activities and traditions. Another wall dons a word cloud containing HU-specific terms, places and lingo.
“I hope that current students enjoy it, but I also hope that it can catch the eye of prospective students,” Hendryx said.
Administration expects the gas-fired brick pizza oven to stand out as a student favorite. Dr. Emberton named it, along with the new paint colors, as her favorite part of the renovation.
“I believe the pizza station will be a very popular attraction this year,” Stairs said.
Renovations to the upper level of the Habecker Dining Commons, which include paint, lighting and sound upgrades, are slated for completion by the end of August.