A small yet efficient kitchen supports a year-old convenience market and café and a refurbished Pizza Hut franchise at a retail unit with a long history.
Alfred State College's mission to bring a diverse and convenient menu and dining options to the north side of campus has been accomplished. The measure of success is a 20 percent increase in traffic at 10 Elm, an 8,316-square-foot building featuring a pair of new operations: 18-month-old Fresh Market and Café, and a Pizza Hut franchise refurbished 6 months ago. Together these two units offer a blend of traditional, healthful and indulgent foods and beverages, as well as comfortable seating for on-site dining.
The history of 10 Elm reflects a campus in transition. In the 1930s and 40s the building stood as a barn on campus. In the 1950s the building was remodeled into a bowling alley. By the early '90s, replacement parts for bowling alleys were becoming more difficult to come by. As a result, in 1996, Auxiliary Campus Enterprises and Services (ACES), a not-for-profit corporation that also provides Alfred State's dining services, campus bookstore, transportation, vending and laundry services, ventured into its first restaurant franchise agreement with Pizza Hut. "It was wildly successful," says Karen Canne, director of dining services and conferences for ACES.
For the next few years, 10 Elm's ACES kept two bowling lanes and added a video arcade and video rentals. When more seating was needed, the lanes were removed. By 2002, students' use of the video arcade and rentals waned because they had their own laptops and gaming devices. In response, ACES brought in KFC to complement Pizza Hut. As this concept's popularity dropped, Canne says, the time had come for another substantial change. In the spring of 2012 KFC was replaced by Fresh Market and Café. The Pizza Hut was refurbished in the summer of 2013.
The quick transformation of 10 Elm to include Fresh Market and Café, led by Canne and Christine Loper, assistant director of cash operations for ACES, took place between graduation in May and opening week of the fall semester in October.
"Students told us they wanted more healthful items," Canne says. "That's not to say we don't also offer the indulgent items, because we certainly do. But we're offering a much wider choice." The menu reflects the desires of a student population that is predominately male — 69 percent. "Cosmopolitan magazine ranked us high on the list of colleges in which women can meet men," Canne says.
The transformation also makes sense given the population frequenting this retail operation. Many are commuters living in nearby townhouses and apartments, while others attend the neighboring Alfred University. Customers may pay with cash, credit cards, dining plans, meal swipes for bundled meals, Dining Dollars (à la carte dollars with dining plan) or an optional Campus Spending Account.
The change at 10 Elm was also precipitated by the closing of a popular late-night venue, the Peach Pit, located near the center of campus.
When customers arrive at 10 Elm, they are greeted by signage on the outside of the building alerting them to the concepts they'll find inside. At Pizza Hut, to the left of the entrance, customers place orders at the POS station and wait for staff to fill the orders. They fill their drink cups at a nearby beverage station that dispenses soda, water and ready-made milkshakes. Customers can either take their orders out of the building or dine in the nearby seating area for all of 10 Elm's concepts. This 75-seat space is bright and light during the day and warm and cozy during the evening hours.
Customers looking for other menu options continue past the Pizza Hut toward a bright sign showing off the Fresh Market and Café's logo.
At the Market, customers can purchase snacks, peanut butter, bread, frozen entrées (including vegan and vegetarian options), eggs, produce, frozen cookie dough, milk, juice and bottled beverages. Customers can find coffee and other hot beverage options at the locally branded Finger Lakes Coffee counter.
Customers pay at cash registers located in the middle of the c-store.
Before approaching the order window at the Café, customers fill out a printed order form listing 30 ingredients ranging from wasabi mayonnaise to dried cranberries that staff will combine into wraps, sandwiches and salads. "At first we had 50 ingredients, but found it was too much, so we streamlined," Canne says. "We're much more efficient now."
"Breakfast sandwiches are also available in the morning, and students are gobbling them up," Loper says. Chicken wings are also proving to be popular. "At Peach Pit, we sold 500 pounds of chicken wings a week, and at the café we're serving 2,300 pounds a week," Loper says.
Customers take their order forms to a service window, hand them to a cashier who tabulates their bills before passing the forms to an expediter who passes them to menu preparers. Customers can see some of the menu preparation as staff collect ingredients sitting in a refrigerated rail and ambient wells and assemble the orders on a six-foot-long sandwich prep table.
Customers move to their right and pick up orders at another window. They fill their beverage cups at the same beverage station used by Pizza Hut customers. These customers can also take their orders out or dine on-site. Approximately 50 percent of customers stay on-site.