Kennesaw State University of Georgia adapts to COVID, asks
For Kennesaw State University, the COVID pandemic has temporarily put some plans on hold, but also created an opening for the university’s catering staff to reset.
The Georgia School has implemented a wide range of solutions to protect students and staff when classes resumed last fall at its two metro Atlanta campuses. Among the measures: reduced seating, removal of self-service stations, move to cashless operations and upgrade to contactless outlets, expected social distancing / cleaning protocols and more outdoor events .
Take-out has put more emphasis on both campuses. All meal plan holders have been automatically enrolled in the Takeout Club, which provides students with recyclable take-out containers. Grubhub, which already served campuses, also came in handy.
“Fortunately, we had a well-established relationship with Grubhub, as we already had a Grubhub take-out menu in the dining rooms,” explains Jenifer Duggan, senior manager of university catering. “We quickly rotated and expanded our a la carte menu and introduced a ‘combo menu’ where students could choose from a selection of main courses, side dishes, desserts and drinks for a meal plan starter,” she adds. The arrangement allows for contactless ordering, payment and pickup.
Perhaps the most difficult challenge in the COVID era has been to move from self-service to serving staff, Duggan says. “We had to increase the staff and completely change the layout of the stations, which presented problems with configuration, speed of service and customer traffic flow,” she observes.
The Grubhub partnership also helped manage traffic. Retail outlets took over all orders from Grubhub, which helped them operate despite labor shortages last fall, and Grubhub was a success in mess halls, “which n It’s no surprise, ”says Duggan. “It’s a transition in consumer behavior that the industry as a whole is going through, and we’re not straying from it anytime soon.” Both campuses will expand fall semester pickup areas and keep takeout combos in place.
In the 2020-2021 academic year, Georgia State Colleges embraced fully online, hybrid, and in-person learning. Commuters outnumber residents on KSU campus campuses, and between the two groups, college canteens captured 55 to 60 percent of their normal volume.
In the meantime, KSU has moved forward with renovations and menu changes that were put on hold once COVID kicked off.
A Marietta campus dining hall has been fitted with new custom joinery and new fixtures for some stations, which is part of a much-needed refresh, Duggan says. New equipment and improved production and service flow provide more flexibility. The Global Kitchen Station, for example, has room to prepare and serve more complex dishes, thanks to a cooler space and built-in induction burners. This station also includes a fresh pasta production area, new to campus, and new hot / cold units in place of the existing service wells, which will better accommodate menu updates.
On the Kennesaw campus, a new Moe’s Southwest Grill opened in August 2020, after a six-month delay due to COVID.
“Moe’s was shocked that we wanted to open – most C&U operators were closing locations, not opening new ones – but we wanted to open so the students had something exciting and new,” notes Duggan.
University catering has also expanded its partnership with the university’s CARE services to provide meals, dining hall tickets and dollars for students who are homeless, food insecure or in the system. foster care.
The catering team has had the ability to adapt in part because they are not hampered by outside management.
In 2017, the university terminated its contract with a third-party food service manager and brought operations back in-house. Duggan says the desire for a more personalized offering was factored into the decision: with two unique campuses, a management firm’s cookie-cutter approach was not the best solution, says it.
“We are now able to respond quickly to student needs and requests without much back-and-forth with a supplier, and there are no contractual terms or negotiations required. In addition, we were able to redirect management costs to other areas, ”she adds.
Going forward, Duggan expects some measures focused on COVID to remain. Students responded positively to holding events outdoors, for example. And the importance of take out cannot be understated. The university is working on ways to expand its partnership with Grubhub, including delivering on-campus restaurants to residents in nearby dormitories and off-campus housing.
KSU also hopes to start offering hot meals and eating and weekly meal kits in the fall.
“These tick the boxes for students who live on campus and have access to shared kitchens or private kitchenettes, our large suburban student population, and faculty and staff who want to take dinner home instead of take care of meal preparation and cooking, ”says Duggan.