Purdue University’s newly created Purdue Dining & Catering department is more than up to the task of providing daily meals to more than 40,000 students and staff daily.
The department, formed in 2012 by the university’s department of housing and foodservices, consolidates dining, catering and support operations that formerly fell under the supervision of different departments. “We want to optimize what we do and create efficiencies in procurement, what we make, how we make it and the systems we use to do that,” says Director of Dining Greg Minner, who was hired in August 2012 to lead the operation.
Purdue Dining & Catering operates 39 locations on the university’s main campus in West Lafayette, Ind., including five residential dining courts, three “On-the-Go” locations, 22 retail quick-service locations, three convenience stores and a full-service restaurant. The department also maintains an athletic dining hall, food stores facility, central production kitchen and catering and beverage operation.
The dining department served 6.2 million meals during the 2011-2012 school year and employs 2,429 student workers in addition to full- and part-time staff.
The department in 2013 will open two new dining emporiums featuring Starbucks kiosks that will be operated by Purdue Dining & Catering staff. Other plans include expanding one of the university’s dining courts, opening a new dining court to serve students in Purdue’s honors college and potentially offering meal plans for students who live off-campus. Purdue Dining & Catering also recently started studying the possibility of creating a culinary support center to enhance its operations, Minner says.
Upon its formation, Purdue Dining & Catering established several strategic goals that serve as the backbone of the organization. These goals are:
- Creating collaborative relationships and intentional learning opportunities to inspire students, staff and community success;
- Providing an engaging environment where team members are recognized for their contributions and value;
- Fostering diversity and inclusion;
- Operating in a fiscally responsible manner to support operational and strategic growth;
- Maintaining a progressive and sustainable approach;
- Supporting continuous improvement; and
- Using marketing strategies and technology to communicate to the campus community.
Most recently, the department started taking several steps toward the sustainability goal in particular. “We’ve been thinking of what we can do to source more goods locally,” Minner says. “We’re working toward a model that is truly from farm to fork and from farm to dining hall.”
Purdue Dining & Catering recently formed a partnership with the university’s agriculture department, which oversees a five-acre student farm. The dining department hopes the farm can eventually serve as a source for produce, Minner adds.
Centered on Students
Purdue Dining & Catering’s student-centered strategic goals include providing more nutritional information and offering students with allergies alternative meal options. Students with vegetarian and vegan diets also are offered a variety of options in all Purdue Dining & Catering locations. These options include meals as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. The department recently started providing calorie and other information through a mobile site students can access through their smartphones.
The dining department’s efforts to provide healthy, delicious food to students have earned it a 99 percent student satisfaction rating. The dining department is also ranked 14th nationally by The Princeton Review and 25th by The Daily Meal.
Dining representatives regularly sit down with students for five-minute surveys about Purdue Dining & Catering’s offerings.
“We try to find out what they like and take personal pride in what we make throughout the year,” Minner says. “We regularly test new recipes and new products and make students a part of that process.”