By Cory. A. Thompson – firstname.lastname@example.org – Staff Writer
Collaborating with UNC Asheville, dining service contractor Chartwells, Inc. plans a series of rapid renovations to revamp food options in three locations on campus, according to Chartwells staff.
“Our timetable is severely aggressive,” Emily Williams, director of dining services said. “We don’t have space for the growing student populations in our locations, and I won’t stand for lines.”
Organizers scheduled the Brown Hall cafeteria renovation, considered to be the most extensive, for next summer. The plans for a winter break Highsmith Union renovation feature two new dining options and a new layout for the space. In the library, contractors hammer away at an overdue iteration of Argo Tea.
“Workers have been on site in the library six days a week for 12-hour days,” Williams said. “We’ve been really moving on this project.”
According to a sign stationed in front of the library, the café should have opened in August. According to Williams, Argo Tea will open officially Oct. 8. The renovations double the size of the coffee bar.
“The library gave us their staff’s break room and some of their back of the house space. We put the whole concept back in that space. In the seating area, there are study rooms, the attachment to the greenhouse and a whole array of seating options,” Williams said.
The food in Argo Tea remains standard coffee shop fare, but according to Nancy Yeager, liaison between UNCA and Chartwells, students should expect big changes in Highsmith food by spring semester.
“We’re introducing two new concepts to completely replace the current Highsmith Roster,” Yeager said. “Austin Grill is a minority-owned franchise serving healthy Tex-Mex. The other concept, 2.mato, is Chartwells’ own pizza and pasta brand.”
Yeager said she is most excited for baked chicken wings at Austin Grill, but students demand pizza and pasta. With a little adjustment, 2.mato will fit nicely into the edible landscape of the university, she said.
“I’ve requested the 2.mato have more vegetarian options and perhaps a vegan pizza,” Yeager said. “I imagine it will be difficult for them, though. If we don’t like the food, we can always change the concept. Chartwells offers Latin, sushi, Asian and chains like Subway and Papa Johns.”
Chartwells allocated $100,000 to help renovate the Highsmith food court, as per their new contract. Williams said these architectural reworkings should increase the efficiency and aesthetic appeal of the space.
“We don’t think the food court is very friendly the way it is now,” Williams said. “We’re revamping the area to bring in a market feel. We’re cutting off the long corridor and making actual storefronts.”
Williams said the new design will increase the speed of traffic in the Highsmith area.
“We’ll have more registers,” Williams said. “The points of sale will be at the individual storefronts now so you don’t have to flow through one register.”
Architects employed by Chartwells opted to remove the Highsmith gate, according to Yeager.
“We hated the Highsmith gate,” Yeager said. “It’s going away, and the new entrance will be through a wall in the grotto. The walls will be glass.”
SGA Sen. Rachel Coleman, a dining service committee representative, brought students together to attend a presentation detailing the new design.
“We had a good representation of students watching the dining services presentation early in the year,” Coleman said. “There was no indication that the food would change, but the layout was very well-received.”
According to Williams, a new presentation of food in the dining hall will steer customers toward healthier options. The dining hall renovation will commence after the end of this school year.
“The intent of the new layout is to spread the food around,” Williams said. “We want to focus on the healthy options, to put them first, so they might be a little more available than the unhealthy food.”
Williams said new cafeteria design, which will use downed trees from campus and other natural materials as decorations, will feature different stations located all around the seating areas. Students can create complete meals at any one of these stations.
“One element, the relax station, mimics a home kitchen,” Williams said. “There will be an island, a counter top and refrigerators. Implements will be available to prepare your own food.”
According to Yeager, the cafeteria will seat 573 and will feature a variety of seating options including a patio.
“There will be a patio extending out into Reed Plaza between Brown Hall and the Union,” Yeager said. “It will be enclosed with entrances leading right into the dining room. There will be a wood-fired pizza stove in the corner of the plaza for ambiance.”
Chartwells, Inc. allocated $3 million for the renovations in Brown Hall.