Dear Campus Community,
As many students are no doubt aware, Union College began a new era in campus dining services in July 2016 with the selection of American Dining Creations as its new dining and hospitality partner.
According to the College’s campus-wide announcement, American Dining Creations was selected because unlike many institutional foodservice companies, ADC is a boutique family business committed to outstanding service, culinary excellence, fresh food, a customized approach and a willingness to engage with the campus community.
Headquartered in Syracuse, less than two hours from campus, American Dining Creations is one of the largest privately-held hospitality companies in the United States.
As a family owned local company with deep roots in New York State, we are strongly committed to a campus-wide partnership to increase local sourcing. Local sourcing is central to who we are and we are proud to report that more than 25 percent of all products served in Union’s cafés are now purchased and/or grown locally.
Our eat local commitment stems from our desire to support a sustainable regional economy and our commitment to serving the freshest culinary choices to Union’s students.
Our company name is American Dining Creations, but on Union’s campus we are Union College Hospitality. The change in name is not merely semantics. For us, the name Union College Hospitality (UCH) signifies our commitment to a true partnership with the college.
A key component of the early success of UCH has been this willingness to partner by listening and engaging with Union’s students and the entire campus community.
We began our engagement efforts as soon as we got to campus with meetings between our staff and Union students and we have continued these meetings throughout the fall trimester.
We want the campus community to take ownership over dining services. This is their dining program, and we are here to make it the best it can be for them.
UCH has even hired Donna Reichel to fill an entirely new staff position (Director of Campus Engagement) to ensure that this priority remains front and center at all times.
Our close collaboration with various groups on campus is already bearing fruit. For instance, based on direct feedback from the campus community, we were able to re-incorporate student favorites such as “Dawn’s Chili,” Roasted Red Pepper Gouda Soup and Omelet Fridays at Upperclass Dining Hall.
We’ve also had the opportunity to introduce new products and variety based on interaction with patrons both direct and indirect.
It is extremely important for us to be responsive, but even more important that we make certain we communicate our responses and more over resulting actions effectively.
Even the brands we’ve incorporated at Union stem from early collaboration with the Union community. For instance, some of the most popular stations at West like Malt & Main and the build your own smoothie station were designed based on direct comments, survey responses and feedback from Union students, faculty and grads.
Similarly, one of the clearest messages we heard as soon as we arrived on campus was the desire for fresher food, healthier options along with enhanced menus for students with common food allergies. These concerns helped drive the development of enhanced dining stations like Elements, Chef U and Greens & Grains.
We’re thrilled to hear the positive buzz around dining on campus and it encourages us to keep pushing the envelope on what we can accomplish.
Overall, we see student participation in the dining program on the rise as well as satisfaction levels based on recent surveys. What’s more, Union students aren’t the only ones who have noticed changes underway on campus.
Food Management, a flagship national magazine for the foodservice industry, recently featured many of these popular changes including the all-new Chef U station in a November 21 article about new trends in higher education dining.
We are excited about the positive momentum generated so far, but we are not satisfied. We have a whole host of new surprises in store for the campus in the winter and spring trimesters including the expansion of the Cucina Perfetta Italian area in Upperclass.
This renovation will include new culinary equipment to expand daily menu variety and freshness, including: calzones, Stromboli, and pasta dishes sautéed to order (including gluten free options!). We’re also looking at the potential of expanding the popular Chef U station in Upperclass and are committed to the continued growth in menu variety and freshness offered at West.
Most importantly, we’re excited to increase the frequency of engagement events that proved so popular during the fall trimester. These events included the visiting chef series featuring tasty treats from local restaurant Aperitivo Bistro and the fall Campus Crunch sustainability event featuring local apples, cider, and farm-to-table education.
UCH also plans to continue to work closely with student groups like SpoonU, Ozone and multicultural student groups on student-led dining takeovers, such as the specialty French fry bar, gourmet grilled cheese event,
Hispanic Heritage Month, ozone café meals and caramel apple dipping bars. We also have some very exciting events that will be new to the Union community.
Most notably, Fire & Ice, an outdoor dining event that will be held this February we’re fairly certain will become a winter tradition on campus. Stay tuned!
We cannot stress enough how important interaction, engagement, and feedback from the entire campus community will be to Union’s continued success.
If anyone from the campus community has an issue they would like to discuss or a suggestion for how we might improve services, our door is always open.
Donna Reichel, Union College Hospitality