A sneak peek at the brand new food experience in University Centre
It will be a whole new food experience when the renovated food court in University Centre opens in early December. The new food court will boast a bright new design, a completely revised layout and new food concepts — including a pop-up food kiosk with revolving options offered by different local restaurants and voted on by students.
UM Today got a behind-the-scenes tour last week from dining services general manager Dean Duff. Read on for your special sneak peek at the exciting changes coming.
First of all, as is obvious from both all of the construction going on and the design plans (more below), the look of the food court will change dramatically. New lighting, flooring, tiling and seating will transform the space, which will feature a bright, contemporary aesthetic and improved flow. The food prep areas will be well-lit and refurbished with bright white tile, new storage areas and dedicated hand-washing stations at each location.
But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say. All of the new food concepts, with the exception of the new Starbucks and Subway (the only national chain to remain in the U Centre food court), will be in-house, homemade-style food offerings. Stations are designated as Asian, Middle Eastern, pizza, a traditional grill and a healthy kitchen concept, with individual cooking centres equipped with full fanhoods linking to an improved ventilation system that allows flexibility for better energy conservation. Pizza Pizza will be moved to University College and starting next September, will feature dorm delivery Thursdays through Saturday nights until about 2:00 a.m.
For Duff, who previously owned Brio restaurant at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the motivation is to offer delicious, healthy and homemade-style food, with as much local sourcing as possible. He’s also thrilled about the long-needed upgrade to the food court.
(See illustrations below for an overview. These are are the original designs and so may be subject to slight changes.)
The upgrade will improve both aesthetic appeal and efficiency. “In addition to it being a low, dark space,” he says, “before we had the problem that you’d have to stand in a busy line multiple times, once to get your food and then another time, to pay for your food. Now, with the seven cash registers at each location, you stand in line once. It’s about using the space a little more effectively.”
Seating will also be a vast improvement, with a mix of different options from rail seating to low leather club seating to high-top and low cocktail tables. The Fireplace Lounge will be converted to seating but remain a flex space, with moveable (and removeable) furniture.
The various food concepts will be separated geographically by bulkhead walls built with planking reclaimed from the old ceiling. The food preparation area will be more open and where possible, food prep will be visible so that you can see your food being prepared before your eyes — for instance, pizzas being made and baked in the new pizza ovens.
Another exciting feature is the “flex kitchen,” which will showcase local restaurants, likely on a semester-by-semester basis, says Duff. “We’ll have student vote on which restaurants they most want [in the food court]. The restaurants will customize their menus and bring in one or two items to showcase to students,” he explains.
The in-house food includes Middle Eastern and Asian sections, the latter of which will feature three gas-fired woks for made-to-order dishes. During peak lunch hours, a take-away system will allow customers to fill boxes with freshly-prepared Asian dishes of their choice; Duff says that different specials, such as Pad Thai, will be featured daily on a rotating basis. The Shawarma section will feature both halal beef and chicken options daily. Additional features will be a sushi case that features fresh sushi, a build-your-own salad section with high-end toppings such as quinoa or smoked salmon and Get the Good Stuff soups and chili — made fresh daily. Vegetarian and vegan options will be available and clearly indicated. Each cash station will have have fridges with grab-and-go, fresh-composed salads and fruit.
At the moment, says Duff, things are progressing as planned, with a December 1 construction completion date and an opening scheduled for December 8.
>> Click through below for some behind-the-scenes photos of construction in progress.
I would appreciate a report on food service changes throughout the university. For example, will Tim Horton’s still be on the second level of UCentre? (I have to say I question the decision to add Starbucks at the expense of Tim’s – Tim’s food was more affordable, well appreciated, faster (even the coffee at Starbucks takes longer).
I also would appreciate knowing what is happening in Fletcher Argue (robins?) and my area – Science. Our small canteen, when it was open (hours were atrocious) provided friendly service and good reasonable priced food. I hear now that there will be an expensive replacement by Starbucks.
This is so exciting!!!
I would be happy to chat any time you’re able, but would like to answer the questions you’ve raised here. We are in fact not replacing Tims stores with Starbucks, although I know at the present time it does feel like it. The Robins in Fletcher Argue is being converted to a Tims store and the Tims on the 200 level of U Centre is having 2 additional cashes built in for a new beverage only line. While we have experienced delays in getting these two changes done, I expect them to both be in operation Jan 2015. The canteen in Armes is indeed being replaced by a new Starbucks, which will allow us to provide better hours of operation in the area and enhance the SSA lounge greatly. Planned in the next 12 months or so the campus will also see new or renovated Dining Services operations in Active Living (the Tims was closed there only to make way for the new building), University College, Drake, Greenhouse Cafe, Education, a renovated Pembina Hall dining room, full renovation at Brodie Centre and evening pizza delivery service on the Ft Garry campus. Thanks very much for the comment, appreciate the chance to reply. Dean
I question the suggestion to open a Starbucks in Armes. Like its only white girl stuff and most people prefer Tims anyways. A better restaurant would be better for the science area. If there was a referendum about opening a Starbucks in Science, im pretty sure it wouldnt pass. Besides, the area is going to be flooded with people in the mornings. What does Starbucks even have to offer and who makes these decisions?
I like Starbucks and am glad to see more of them on campus. While all forms of baking have calories – less donuts the better.
Another gross and expensive $tarbucks? No thanks! I’d rather have a McDonalds or KFC or something that we don’t already have (and won’t gouge our wallets).
At the risk of being totally repetitive, everyone keeps asking me when Bistro 205 is reopening, to which I reply “Never.” We need a high-end place with sit-down service to take candidates for positions, donors, financial supporters to the University, seniors and others. These changes are really not for formal occasions. Where do we go otherwise?