BLACKSBURG, Va., Feb. 23, 2012 – As Virginia Tech students order from the walk-up window at Bruegger’s Bagels or sit down to Origami’s Japanese steakhouse-style dining experience when the new Turner Place at Lavery Hall dining center opens next fall, they will literally be getting what they asked for.
The center’s location on the academic side of campus, as well as many of its eight venues, including three national franchise brands, are coming as a direct result of the university finding out what students think can be done to enhance the Dining Services program.
The dining program used feedback from student surveys, a departmental student advisory committee, Table Talk Live programs in the campus dining centers, and collaborated with Virginia Tech’s Student Government Association in order to determine what students want.
“I think there are a lot of firsts here,” said Director of Dining Services Ted Faulkner. “We’re kind of pushing the envelope in providing services we currently don’t provide, so we’re excited about that.”
Turner Place will be the first Dining Services facility on the academic side of campus. With the closing of Shultz Dining Center at the end of the spring semester, Turner Place will also become the most convenient dining spot for students and faculty who have classes on that side of campus. With that in mind, the new dining center will offer many grab-n-go items similar to those found in Shultz as well as a la carte items.
Unlike Shultz, however, Turner Place will have continuous service featuring national franchise brands and upscale original restaurant concepts with individual seating areas, all in response to the student feedback.
Customers will be able to pick up a burrito at Qdoba Mexican Grill, which will be the franchise’s second location on a college campus and the first run by a university; a fruit smoothie at the first Jamba Juice location in Virginia; or a bagel and coffee at the first university-run Bruegger’s Bagels. Qdoba and Bruegger’s Bagels will offer to-go options as well as restaurant-style seating, with Bruegger’s offering patrons the ability to order from a walk-up window without ever actually entering the building.
Faulkner said the walk-up window was also inspired by students, who indicated that they would like to have a drive-through window option.
“We didn’t want to create a traffic jam, so we got to thinking about creating a walk-up window,” he said. “If you’re parked in the new parking garage or in the parking lot by Prices Fork, you can walk right up and order a coffee and a bagel with cream cheese and be on your way.”
One of the particularly distinctive points, and something else designed to meet students’ requests, is the teppanyaki grill Origami, which will also feature a full sushi bar. The venue is designed to stay true to the Japanese steakhouse experience, with trained chefs cooking food to order on a flat-top teppanyaki grill surrounded by seated diners, something which Faulkner said he believes is a first for any college campus.
“The students said they would really enjoy the sense of community and celebrating occasions like birthdays and special events with a group around a table, which you often find to be the case at a Japanese steakhouse,” he said.
Students also expressed a desire for snack options to ease late-night study sessions or lab work in the academic buildings. Dolci e Caffé was created partly to meet that need, with coffee, grab-n-go sandwiches and salads, and crêpes and gelato made on site and available up to 10 p.m.
Faulkner said Qdoba will remain open until 10 p.m., as well.
Turner Place will also take some cues from the university’s West End Market dining center. Faulkner said J.P.’s Chophouse proved popular with students, and they requested a similar venue be found at Turner Place. The result is 1872 Fire Grill, which will feature traditional steakhouse fare on one side and southern dishes on the other. It will also feature a wall-of-flame rotisserie and a five-foot chargrill that will be fueled entirely by wood, some of which will be locally sourced and supplied by the Virginia Tech Forestry Club in the College of Natural Resources and Environment.
“There will be no gas or electricity that runs to it. It’s an all-natural source,” Faulkner said. “We will be grilling proteins and vegetables over this natural fuel source to add depth and flavor to the dish.”
Students also favored healthier foods such as soups and salads, which they will be able to find at Turner Place’s Soup Garden. Like West End Market’s Leaf and Ladle, Soup Garden will offer soups and salads but with more protein options for salads, such as beef and seafood as well as chicken.
Italian dishes and salads will be offered at Atomic Pizzeria, where guests can order items such as lasagna or manicotti, personal pan pizzas or pizza by the slice, pasta from the sauté station, and cheesecakes.
The menus for the five original restaurants are currently being formed by Turner Place’s Assistant Director John Barrett and Executive Chef Senior Mark Moritz. Faulkner said taste tests are being conducted twice a week with students, staff, and members of the student advisory committee to determine which recipes will ultimately be featured.
“We’re very proud to be bringing students another wide variety of food selections they told us they would like to see,” Faulkner said. “It always pleases us as a department to be able to pursue that.”
Turner Place will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday, beginning in the fall 2012 semester. It will be a cashless facility, with payment accepted in the form of Flex Plans, Hokie Passport Accounts, Dining Dollars, and credit and debit cards.
The Division of Student Affairs at Virginia Tech encompasses departments dedicated to providing a rich co-curricular experience and essential student services. Virtually every aspect of a student's life outside the classroom is represented through the division's departments.
Written by Jennifer Gibson.