In the support kitchen, culinary staff wash vegetables in a three-compartment sink. "We're receiving produce in a variety of formats — some, like tomatoes, arrive fresh from the farm and other vegetables come prewashed and some preprepared — so we adjust depending on what we receive," Drake says.
In the kitchen, staff also use three steam-jacketed kettles to prepare sauces for Mangia, Fusion, Caliente and A Cut Above. They also use a tumble marinating machine, which creates a vacuum environment that turns meat for items such as briskets. Kettles heat pasta, and two combi ovens cook bacon, gourmet macaroni and cheese and proteins. "One of the combis has a smoker, which we'll use to cook meats for various recipes, and we also have a smoker at A Cut Above," Drake says. In addition, steamers cook rice and beans.
Also in the kitchen, staff use a six-burner range for sautéing onions and preparing mirepoix for salsas and sauces, an overhead broiler for melting cheese and a char grill for cooking proteins. A blast chiller quickly lowers products' temperature. "We're using the blast chiller for sauces and stocks, which we then place into a freezer to hold for perhaps three days before using it. This way we can stagger our production."
In addition to the opportunity to work with new, contemporary equipment, staff really enjoy the natural light streaming in through the kitchen's windows along one side of the building.
The three restaurants on the west side operate from 7 a.m. until midnight. The Round is a comfy space that welcomes guests for breakfast and throughout the day until midnight and eventually 2 a.m. This restaurant features coffee and espresso machines using beans ground here. A selection of teas is also available. A conveyor oven heats mini quiches, turnovers and cookies. Ambient display cases hold these and other pastries and baked goods.
At The Club House, staff use quick-speed ovens with microwave technology to heat sandwiches prepared to order and a griddle to make breakfast items such as eggs, bacon and sausages for biscuits and gravy. This menu also features grab-and-go sandwiches. Coffee brewed at The Round is served here using airpots.
Bloomingberry is the place for customers who enjoy frozen yogurt and smoothies. Three soft-serve machines dispense yogurt, while four blenders mix smoothies made from real fruit. Juicers extract liquid from fruits and vegetables. Customers select toppings displayed in a
Across a lobby area in the east side of the facility, six concepts offer a plethora of flavors and textures in authentic global cuisine.
At Mangia, customers view the preparation of Italian flavors from the servery side as well as the dining room. Vibrant red-glass tile and wood tones emphasize Old World Italian charm. Staff use a press to prepare pizza dough that is baked in the restaurant's focal point, a gas-fired stone oven. The oven also bakes calzones. Flat warmers hold pizza until customers help themselves. Staff use a sauté range to cook pasta dishes using ingredients held in wells that can be kept hot or cold. "We originally had induction ranges, but we had to replace these with a gas range because we couldn't keep up with production at the two stations, and now this range allows us to have a third," Fowler says. Pasta dishes are either prepared to order by staff, or customers can make their own creations.
Near Mangia, an open cooler displays bagels and fruit.
Romaine sits in the center of the servery space. "This area pulls inspiration from the simplicity of Asian decor," says Kaitlin Arendsen, design associate at Bakergroup. "Light neutrals are present in the casework, while punches of green highlight the venue's menu items as well as the large fresh-produce display that can be seen from outside the walk-in as one passes by the station." The produce display is actually a lettuce cooler bin and crispers that hold produce at the proper temperature and humidity levels. Staff make salad dressings using a food processor. Staff prepare salads for customers who select their ingredients or order specialty salads. This restaurant also features soups in a four-unit well and a fruit bar.
Directly behind Romaine, Fusion features rotating international cuisine from Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean. Popular dishes include Indian turmeric chicken, Korean bibimbap and Vietnamese pho. A suite contains char grills, griddles, fryers, woks, rice cookers, steamers and a four-burner sauté range. Cold rails hold ingredients. Wells that can hold hot and cold ingredients also provide the staff with versatility. "This station thrives on variety and versatility in not only its menu but aesthetic appeal as well," Milius says. "As one of the first restaurants you come across when entering the space, you quickly realize first impressions are very important. The oversized soffit above features several LED-core strips that cast colored illumination down on the walls of the soffit. These colors are ever changing depending on the menu's theme, events and special occasions. The angled counter facade below also features specialty lighting and is comprised of custom acrylic panels that are illuminated with LEDs from behind."
Caliente's lively color concept displays an energetic custom graphic laminate as well as a vibrant blue-glass tile mosaic adding depth and visual draw to the venue's counter facade. Caliente features Old World Latin recipes with a modern flair. Staff prepare entrées such as Dominican chicken, rice-and-bean bowls, meat skewers and Mexican tlayudas topped with sauces, using a charbroiler, fryers and a six-burner range. Customers select menu items from temperature-versatile wells that can be hot or cold.
The Stone Grill incorporates a broad spectrum of materials including faux factory metal, rustic tile, planked wood and hammered steel accents. "The inclusion of mini-LED spots emphasizes the action zone, which was created to engage customers in the preparation of the grill's menu selections," Milius says. Here, customers see staff using two chargrills and a griddle to sizzle burgers ground to IUB specifications, chicken breasts and house-made garden burgers. A fryer cooks classic french fries, green beans and sweet potatoes.
The design of Woodland's resident chophouse, A Cut Above, focuses on the rich, full-bodied flavors of its menu. "It contains a warm transitional color palette combining directional tile, copper lighting fixtures and a sloping metal ceiling that opens up customers' visual connection to the food preparation beyond the main serving counter," Milius says. A refrigerated rail holds proteins that customers can see and select before staff cook them to order. Cooking equipment here includes a steamer, a combi oven, a rotisserie oven, fryers, a two-burner range, a charbroiler and an overhead broiler. Staff also use a smoker to add flavor to the proteins featured on the menu here. After staff prepare the menu items, another staff member delivers the cooked items to customers at tables. Customers also can order menu items for takeout.
For three months during the development of The Restaurants at Woodland, Drake and his culinary staff worked with chefs from The Culinary Institute of America, who helped develop recipes and assisted with preparation. "We formed a partnership with a local state college that allowed us to use their facility for recipe development and training while ours was being constructed," Drake says. "The relationship with CIA was invaluable to bring authenticity into our menu."
For cleaning up, a dish/warewashing area sits between the kitchen and servery. Customers who aren't using paper products bring their dishes to a drop-off window and place them on an accumulator. Staff take the dishes off, place them on a scrapping table (which uses recirculated water) and then deposit them into a flight-type dishmachine. "The dishwashing area is a little awkwardly shaped, but the linear function of moving soiled dishes through the cleaning process works," Milius says. "RPS is able to effectively separate the clean dishes from the soiled dishes."
In order to prepare for Woodland's design, Drake and other members of the dining services team traveled to other colleges, including North Carolina State University and Virginia Tech, to investigate their operations. "We got a lot of ideas and then customized for ourselves," Drake says. "We don't have the traditional meal plan featuring meals. Rather, RPS's meal plan is similar to a debit card, so everything at Woodland is priced à la carte. We have to be very business savvy to make this financially successful."
Staffing, both in terms of the number of people and qualified individuals, remains a major challenge for The Restaurants at Woodland. "This is a very labor-intensive operation, and we need more skilled labor than we've needed at other operations," Drake says. "And we're still looking to expand hours and offerings, so staffing properly is challenging."
Fowler and Drake admit they learn something new every day about how to make the operation more successful. "We need to stay true to our brands," Drake says. "We don't want to water down the concepts, so we have to educate our customers to understand that we can't offer everything at every station or even at the facility. We must offer authentic, very high-quality food and remain cost conscious."
Drake advises colleagues entering into the renovation process to provide enough opportunities for staff to give input on their needs and to offer enough training that they buy into the process and the concepts. "They must see the value of the investment," Drake says. He also advises keeping a flexible schedule for equipment delivery and testing. "You hope everything goes perfectly, but that's not always possible and you must be prepared," he says.
Fowler advises expecting that difficulties during construction may arise that can affect the project schedule. "We had issues with the floors for the walk-in coolers and a hood," she says. "This affected our schedule, and though we hope nothing happens in future projects, we're more aware of the possibility and should build this into the plans."
Shifting a dining operation into an exhibition-style, interactive culinary theater hasn't been without its obstacles. But the customers' and staffs' positive responses to Woodland give Fowler, Drake and the entire project team assurance that the long hours of planning — and stepping into uncharted territory — are paying off. This new project is a stellar example of what Indiana University declares about itself on its website and printed materials: "What matters. Where it matters. In short, we do the things that matter to the people of Indiana where they matter—on our campuses, across the state, and in cities across the world." The Restaurants at Woodland is one of those elements that matters.
Opened: Most restaurants opened mid-September 2013; the Stone Grill opened December 1, 2013.
IU Facts: 42,000 students; 7,398 residence hall rooms; 11,686 residence hall beds; 1,209 apartment units for graduate and undergraduate students, families, faculty, staff and guests; 2 on-campus dining services locations
Scope of Project: A Silver LEED-certified project on three floors, including a lower level with storage and support. On the main level, six restaurants on the east side (Mangia, Romaine, Fusion, Caliente, The Stone Grill and A Cut Above); three restaurants on the west side (The Round, The Club House and Bloomingberry). The main level also contains a support kitchen and warewashing. The upper level contains classrooms and space for meetings and residence hall gatherings.
Size: Total facility, 34,020 square feet, including 11,851 square feet for dining and 5,569 square feet for venues: The Round, 503 square feet; The Club House, 1,056 square feet; Bloomingberry, 851 square feet; Mangia, 696 square feet; Romaine, 392 square feet; Fusion, 611 square feet; the Stone Grill, 535 square feet; Caliente, 349 square feet; A Cut Above, 574 square feet; kitchen, 4,517 square feet; warewashing, 1,356 square feet; cashiering, 460 square feet; East Dining, 2,672 square feet; North Dining, 1,951 square feet; Café Dining, 2,594 square feet; West Dining, 4,634 square feet
Seats: 746 in 4 dining areas: East Dining, 205 seats; North Dining, 121 seats; Café Dining, 110 seats; West Dining, 310 seats; and 120 seats on two terraces
Average Check: $10.30 in east side restaurants; $5.45 in west side restaurants
Total Annual Sales: $4 million, projected
Daily Transactions: 5,500 anticipated
Hours: East side, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (soon, until 10 p.m.); west side, 7 a.m. to midnight (The Round will soon be open until 2 a.m.)
Menu Specialties: Contemporary fare
Staff: 60 FTEs, including supervisors; 100+ students
Total Project Cost: $22 million
Equipment Investment: $2.9 million plus $200,000 purchased by IU