If your mother’s “made from scratch” recipes are your cup of tea, then the reimagined Towers Cafeteria is bound to whet your appetite.
Expect “a brand new dining experience,” said Terrance McKean, Chartwells director of dining services. “With new equipment, new stations and all new menus, it will be a whole new world at Towers Café,” he said.
As Southeast Missouri State University welcomes a new class of students from throughout the United States and around the world, the timing of the renovation couldn’t be better. Students arriving on campus this week will find a newly renovated dining area that allows them to watch most of the cooking from beginning to end. The new concept highlights the freshness and scratch made qualities of the food, that once were prepared back of house, said Terrance McKean, Chartwells director of dining services.
“The entire process is now an open concept,” McKean said. “This is something that we have always strived for but it is now completely transparent to our guests.”
American Construction Services of Savannah, Tennessee, began work on the facility May 23, and the first meal will be served in the redesigned space today, Aug. 16.
Students will find several stations scattered throughout the space – Baker’s Crust, The Kitchen, My Pantry, Fresh Market and the Oasis or G8 station.
“Baker’s Crust will highlight some of the freshly baked goods made by our baker and also the grill area. My Pantry is going to be the area where students can get fresh brewed coffee and tea, cappuccino, fresh whole fruits, along with cereals and baked goods,” he said. “The Kitchen is going to serve our main menu options which rotate on a five- week cycle. This menu was developed in conjunction with our corporate culinary team and also our in-house chefs. The most exciting feature will be the centrally located serving area that will feature the deli, the salad bar and an action station. This station also will include a brand new brick oven pizza maker,” he said.
“The Oasis or G8 station is our newest addition,” McKean said. “This station will be an area free of the eight most common allergens and also will include items made without gluten.”
The serving area of Towers Cafeteria was last updated in 2000, with the seating area upgraded three years ago, according to Shelly Windeknecht, Facilities Management project manager. The work this summer also involved extensive renovations to the plumbing and electrical systems.
“Virtually all of the equipment in the space is new,” she said.
The goal of the renovation was to involve Southeast students in the entire process of meal service.
“This renovation was undertaken in order to better accommodate our student population and to better meet the needs of a diverse population,” McKean said.
The Café, which encompasses 22,500 square feet, including the kitchen, offers a new seating arrangement, scattered throughout the various stations, to accommodate more than 600 students.
“With the new seating arrangement, we are hoping to promote community,” he said. “We want to encourage networking between fellow students and also between students and faculty.”
The Café will continue to operate as an all-you-can-eat dining option. The $3.4 million renovation is funded through the University’s new dining contract with Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services approved by the Board of Regents in February 2015. Under that contract, Chartwells committed to a $6.575 million capital investment to enhance programs and renovate facilities. The first phase of those improvements included expansion of the Subway brand in Scully Building and a new coffee concept in the same building, which were completed in summer 2015. A popular new venue, Panda Express, opened in February 2016 in the University Center, and Chick-fil-A, located in the University Center, along with the University Center kitchen are scheduled for upgrades in summer 2017.