Renovations to several food service locations are underway in University Centre (UC) as a new academic school year begins.
Changes are being made to some of the Aramark-managed food service establishments on campus, with select renovations expected to continue well into the fall semester. Establishments that are still open are expecting heavy traffic as students return to campus in large numbers.
A report from UMSU vice-president internal Jeremiah Kopp in UMSU Council’s July meeting minutes say the renovations came as a part of Aramark’s contract with the university, allowing them to continue serving as a campus food provider.
The University of Manitoba Dining Services (UMDS) website provides some details about the plan for renovations to the area, saying “the [campus] food court in University Centre will receive a complete overhaul, featuring all new concepts which focus on culinary variety and speed of service. In addition to the concept changes, the seating [ . . . ] will be upgraded to a mixture of soft seating, new tables, and improved lighting.”
The website also features a message which reads, “Please bear with us during construction, as we bring an all new dining experience to campus this fall!”
The campus food court is currently walled off and undergoing renovations, blocking off the numerous small food stations and seating blocked for faculty and students.
Additional renovations taking place in UC for the fall of 2014 include taking the Tim Hortons, formerly located on the first floor of UC, and amalgamating it with the Tim Hortons on the second floor, adding two new express coffee lines to the second floor location.
A new Starbucks is being constructed near the location of the former Tim Hortons on the first floor.
Renovations occurring beyond UC for the fall include changing the Robin’s Donuts in Fletcher Argue to a self-serve Tim Hortons and the addition of a Starbucks in place of the former Food Services canteen in the Armes complex.
Renovations to the campus food court are expected to be completed in late 2014, according to the UMDS’s website.
The installation of a Starbucks on the first floor of UC is expected to be completed in September 2014.
In response to the investments by Aramark, the UMSU executive is laying out plans to help UMSU businesses compete with the campus food court in the long term.
In his report from the UMSU Council’s July meeting, Kopp said that UMSU needs to counter efforts by Aramark to make the campus food court area the place students want to eat.
“The plan for the third floor is to open up the business[es], make them more integrated, and create a streetscape,” said Kopp.
The report then highlights specifics, including plans to: install new carpeting and paint in Degrees, invest in new kitchen equipment for the Hub, remove the glass in the front of I.Q.’s, as well as replace Global Bubble Tea with a new sushi restaurant called UMSushi.
UMSushi was a prominent campaign promise of the Refresh slate, who won last year’s UMSU election.
In the short-term, several UMSU businesses are preparing themselves for a particularly busy start to the school year.
Jack Jonasson, manager of the Hub, said that UMSU businesses are expecting a larger number of customers than normal at the start of the school year as a result of the renovations.
Jonasson said that in order to prepare for the rush they’ve hired staff, brought in kitchen equipment, and that they will be offering a more streamlined service for customers in order to meet increased demand.
Degrees manager Thomas Blumer also identified hiring more people as well as streamlining the menu as ways in which Degrees is preparing for the rush of new students.
“Also doing some production in terms of making more take-away food, which is like the sandwiches, the salads, the veggie and dip, spring rolls – all that kind of stuff [ . . . ] Grab-and-go items. Then we’re also going to be supplying that to I.Q.’s as well as down at G.P.A.’s,” Blumer said.
But Blumer voiced concern about the capacity of UMSU businesses to deal with the demands of such a large portion of the campus population.
“There’s 30,000 people, right? It’s a small town, just a couple places are not going to be able to really keep up with the demand. As much as I would probably love to do that it’s simply not possible,” Blumer said.
Both managers suggested that despite the strain associated with providing service to so many more students, the temporary closure of the campus food court represents a great opportunity for UMSU businesses.
“Anytime we have a chance to put more people through the door, it’s a benefit for us. Obviously for the first couple of weeks we’re going to be still figuring out [ . . . ] how to do things with this kind of new reality, but we feel very confident that the product we’re going to put out is going to be great and that it’ll be a good experience for students,” said Jonasson.