Imagine a campus cafeteria and you probably picture a sterile room with limited menu options. But that’s not the case at UNT – home to five modern cafeterias and 13 innovative retail dining locations.
UNT’s Dining Services, an in-house operation, constantly works to vanquish the bland. In fact, they have implemented several student feedback programs, including a Student Food Advisory Board and a secret shopper program, to continually improve the dining experience at UNT.
Bill McNeace, executive director of dining says that good food and a good dining experience helps the university recruit and retain students.
“There is a big difference between getting the food almost right and getting it right,” said McNeace. “Everyone eats, so everyone is an expert, which is good for us because that means that we get plenty of suggestions on how to improve. We take each suggestion seriously and are thankful that UNT’s students take the time to communicate with us.”
Dining Services staff preparing vegan meals.
Based on student feedback, Dining Service rolled out two new concepts this fall – an all-vegan cafeteria at Maple Hall and a Southern, home-style experience at West Hall. Dining also introduced the Bruceteria, a complete overhaul of the Bruce Hall cafeteria.
Maple’s Mean Greens and West’s Southern comfort food
Ken Botts, special projects manager for UNT Dining Services, oversaw the development of the new concepts at Maple and West. Botts says the projects were made possible by the fact that UNT has five cafeterias, while most other universities only have one or two.
“Having five general purpose cafeterias allows us to maximize our resources and offer more options to the UNT community,” says Botts.
Botts says for years the two top requests made by students have been for more vegan and vegetarian options and more Southern food. These requests were the impetus for the new concepts at Maple and West.
Students dining at Mean Greens.
In addition to the changes to the menu, dining also overhauled the look and feel of the cafeteria’s themselves. Maple, also known as Mean Greens, now includes bright wall graphics of fresh fruits and vegetables. West added a hot sauce wall and a barrel of peanuts. Botts says the changes to the atmosphere and décor help the university move away from a traditional cafeteria experience and more toward a restaurant experience.
Bruce Hall’s Bruceteria
In addition to revamping Maple and West, the dining team also did a complete remodel of the cafeteria located in Bruce Hall, one of the campus’ oldest residence halls. The facility, now named the Bruceteria, is slated to open later this fall.
The dining team requested student feedback throughout the redesign process and included student-requested features, such as an expanded and more open service area.
“I like that you can be heard. I feel like having an opportunity to sit down with the executive director of dining and his staff is more productive than just posting a comment on the wall and waiting for a response,” says Elizabeth George, president of UNT’s Student Food Advisory Board.
The Bruceteria also includes a fresh pizza and pasta line, which allows guests to watch the dining staff cook dishes from scratch. And the remodel incorporated a new dish return system that eliminates trays and makes the hall more environmentally sustainable.
More diverse flavor options
Students ordering from the Khush Roti stand.
Students asked Dining Services to bring more diverse flavors to campus, which brought about Khush Roti, The Angry Friar and Lee’s Grilled Cheese.
Khush Roti, a food stand serving sandwiches near the General Academic Building, offers ingredients and flavors including garam masala, Tandoori chicken, and Cubano-style brisket. The Angry Friar and Lee's Grilled Cheese are both independently-owned food trucks that UNT contracts to provide students with additional dining options.
The two trucks share a spot near the UNT Language Building. Lee’s Grilled Cheese serves modern variations of the traditional grilled cheese sandwich during the lunch rush, and the Angry Friar, a green double-decker bus converted into a food truck, offers fish and chips in the evening.
Dining also responded to students requests for Starbucks products by opening a café and coffee shop in the new 180,000 square foot Business Leadership Building. The Biz Café is a one-stop shop for students on the go. Students can grab cereal for breakfast, pre-made salads and sandwiches at lunch or dinner and authentic Starbucks drinks throughout the day.
“When we planned the new Business Leadership Building, we wanted spaces that would build a greater sense of community,” says College of Business Dean Finley Graves. “The BizCafé is open from early morning to evening class times -- meaning students don't even have to leave the building to eat. They can share meals with their classmates right here.”
Visit the Dining Services web site for a full list of UNT’s dining facilities, as well as hours and menus.