Change in management takes S.U.B. in new direction

As a result of the recent partnership with an external managerial company, the Puget Sound Diner has been undergoing major changes, and students are taking notice. Columbia Hospitality was hired in July 2010 to point the Diner in a new direction, and it plans to revamp everything from flavors to furnishings.

“It seems like [Dining and Conference Services] is definitely trying to step up their game,” commented junior Charlie Cronin. “I’ve noticed a lot of new menu options, especially at Full Fare.”

Indeed, one of the team’s initial goals is increased menu variety. According to Dining and Conference Services (DCS) manager Diana Duthie, students can expect a larger selection of proteins and recipes at both Pac Rim and Full Fare, along with increased ingredient labeling and display.

After an organizational review throughout the 2009-2010 school year, the original DCS management team recognized that there was room for improvement in their efficiency. It was then that Vice President of Finance and Administration Sherry Mondou and Associate Vice President for Business Services John Hickey made the decision to partner with Columbia Hospitality, an external hospitality management company based in Seattle.

“Through this partnership, Puget Sound gains immediate access to a significant depth of expertise in leadership, best practices and innovative approaches to dining, catering and conference services,” Hickey explained.

According to Duthie, the first order of business was to streamline the food distribution area. This streamlining prompted the installation of a new self-serve hot cereal bar, and the relocation of the fruit, cereal, milk, ice cream and condiment stations.

“It seems like a lot of things are more conveniently placed,” said sophomore Abigail Struxness.

Increased sustainability is also on the horizon, inspired in part by new Assistant Director of Diner Operations Melissa Flood.

“[She] has a longstanding passion for working with farm-to-table and sustainability groups, and at one time wrote and hosted a daily radio program around the topic,” Hickey said.

DCS anticipates that Columbia’s connection to a wider variety of suppliers will enable it to connect with more local and green-minded companies. It also hopes to install bulk cereal and milk dispensers, and to switch from compostable to biodegradable paper products.

Larger access to suppliers suggests an increased selection for vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diners as well, and plans for a weekly vegan/gluten-free lasagna night are in the works.

There has even been talk of expansion. “The student population has increased a lot in the past two decades since our facilities were built,” explained Duthie. “We hope that some reconstruction in the future will allow for a larger selection as well as more opportunities for sustainability.”

They also hope to begin offering more house-made sauces and dressings, with the help of the kitchen’s new sous-chef Mark Powers, and, if space permits, a soft-serve yogurt machine.

“We have made a few changes thus far, but Columbia Hospitality and the entire dining staff team have other great ideas that will be implemented and communicated via the DCS website,” Hickey said.

To keep up with the Diner’s daily menu specials, students can subscribe to DCS’s twitter account at http://twitter.com/UPSDiner.