In an effort to improve the atmosphere and menu options for on-campus dining, USC Hospitality completed substantial renovations to EVK Restaurant and Grill, Café 84 and Trojan Grounds this summer.
EVK and Café 84 are scheduled to open Wednesday and Trojan Grounds, now a licensed Starbucks, opened Monday with limited hours. It will begin operating 24/7 next week.
For returning students, the upgrades will seem stark, Director of Hospitality Kris Klinger said last week as contractors laid the final touches on the new Café 84, which will now serve as a third dining hall. Klinger said USC Hospitality used Whole Foods as a model for its Café 84 renovations.
“The sophomores, juniors and seniors are going to go in and be blown away,” Klinger said.
EVK’s facelift left the dining hall with coffered ceilings, wooden floors and modern lighting fixtures. EVK also includes a pizza oven and a Mongolian grill, which executive chef Eric Ernest said can heat up to about 900 degrees.
“For that swipe, you can come in and you really get an experience like a Las Vegas-style buffet, where everything is small and unique and craveable,” Ernest said.
In addition to physical upgrades to the facilities, USC Hospitality has also made adjustments to its menus. Ernest said he hopes to emphasize the use of fresh and local ingredients.
“When food is fresh, it’s beyond taste,” Ernest said. “It’s just a much better experience.”
USC Hospitality reorganized several chef positions to create this experience, a change that Klinger said might result in increased operating costs.
“We’ve added some staff, so we’ve incurred some additional costs in regards to the staffing,” Klinger said. “And also for the food because of the way that we are doing it, the way that we are producing it — the smaller batches and we’ve upgraded the menus. We are anticipating an increase in cost there as well.”
Though the cost of producing meals will increase, Ernest said the cost of ingredients should remain about the same.
As a licensed Starbucks, Trojan Grounds, which will still offer its convenient store items, was renovated to feel more like a coffee shop. The store will continue to take USCard in addition to cash and credit cards.
Café 84 will feature a crepe station twice a week, a hand-scooped ice cream station and a salad bar inspired by the South Beach Diet, Ernest said.
Klinger said that Thierry Bourroux, associate director of residential operations, will also take feedback from students and student organizations into consideration.
“As he gets feedback, we’ll make adjustments or changes either to the menuing or the programming or the hours,” Klinger said.
Klinger said, however, that changes sometimes have to be tradeoffs, using hours as a hypothetical example.
“If you [students] want later hours, then maybe we’ll open up later or we’ll have to look at a different option,” Klinger said.
Both Klinger and Ernest said they believe the changes will make a significant difference in the residential dining experience.
“We spent a little bit of effort on it, you know, as opposed to just a little lipstick here and there,” Klinger said jokingly.