North side to get swipe-in dining facility
King Hall will be home to a new residential dining facility opening this summer that will replace the current Café 84 retail-dining complex.
The new facility, which will join The Parkside Restaurant and EVK Restaurant and Grill as the main residential dining halls on campus, will follow the all-you-can-eat model of EVK and Parkside and have a greater focus on healthier foods, according to Director of USC Hospitality Kris Klinger.
Klinger said that USC Hospitality has been looking at places like Whole Foods as a model for the new dining hall in terms of food and design.
“We are looking to create a Whole Foods-type model where it’s got the look and feel of a Whole Foods environment with a really unique salad bar and a lot of made-to-order food as well as some areas where you can get your own hot food,” Klinger said.
The shift toward healthier food in King Hall is part of an overall change among all residential dining facilities to emphasize health and nutrition, while still providing a wide variety of meal options.
Nick Pachon, a freshman majoring in biological sciences, said the healthy food options will be a good addition to USC dining halls.
“A lot of the time when I go to EVK, I’m just choosing between pizza and chicken nuggets or something,” Pachon said. “Healthy food as some of the choices would be a nice change.”
Klinger said menu changes will take place gradually so healthier options can be served alongside student favorites like pizza.
Some structural elements of the current Café 84 will be retained through the transition to a residential dining hall, but all retail branding and signage will be removed.
Plans for the new facility are beginning to take shape with basic blueprints in place, but Klinger said the current plans have the project over-budget, and changes are being made to manage costs. Hospitality will be working with student focus groups to continue making changes to the design and menu options.
The renovations will not result in increased prices for meals at the residential dining facilities, although Klinger said the cost of providing healthier food might rise.
“Food keeps getting more expensive, especially good food,” Klinger said. “Thierry [Bourroux, associate director of residential operations for USC Hospitality] has got the chefs cooking good food, but that can be costly so we’re looking for ways to partner with different groups.”
The changes to King Hall will accompany the transition of neighboring Webb Tower to a residential college, which will house freshmen.
“It will totally change the landscape of residential dining for freshmen,” Klinger said. “We’re trying to significantly raise the bar.”
Some students, however, are not convinced of the need for removing Café 84 to create residential dining.
Trenton Ramos, a sophomore majoring in chemical engineering, lives in Cardinal Gardens and says he eats at Café 84 frequently.
“It’s so much closer than the campus center, and I can still use my dining dollars here,” Ramos said. “I like being able to choose between everything that’s here. If it was a dining hall like EVK, I don’t think I would come here as often.”
In addition to the changes to King Hall, EVK will be undergoing renovations this summer. Klinger and Bourroux said the facilities will emulate some of the aspects of the True Food Kitchen, a full-service restaurant chain built around the concept of healthy, good-tasting and commercially viable food made with locally grown ingredients.
“It’s a focus on food and the presentation of food and having open space and micro-areas where people can sit and enjoy their meal,” Klinger said.