Donovan Dining Center renovations set for summer

The existing DDC service area will be renovated to accommodate the growing student body. Other changes include a new meal plan system, Grab & Go service, and digital signage for menus and college news.

Over the summer, Donovan Dining Center (DDC) will undergo renovations that will update its dining facility.

The majority of changes will occur in the serving area. The rebuilt space will be larger and built to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions. Service stations will be restructured to allow easier access and egress for greater efficiency, and to make the space more customer friendly.

Currently, DDC supports the food service needs of 1,200 resident students and a college community that includes about 9,000 students, plus faculty and staff. The renovations are designed to accommodate the growing college community.

Above and below are artist renderings of the renovated service area in Donovan
Dining Center. (Courtesy of RGB Architects.)
The changes will allow DDC to accommodate up to 30 percent more customers during the dining center’s busiest periods by reconfiguring entrance and exit ways, and improve handicapped accessibility within the service area.

Additionally, a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is being installed to better ventilate the facility.

The introduction of a Grab & Go section – a service offering pre-packaged items such as salads and sandwiches as well as hot entrees such as chicken potpie and beans and rice, will be built into the serving area, making it easier for customers who are rushing to classes, meetings and other activities.

“We were anticipating three years ago creating this new dining concept in the [serving] area that would have a complete Grab & Go section,” said Gary Penfield, vice president for student affairs. The purpose of the section would be to allow customers to make purchases quickly and check out at a dedicated register for the Grab & Go.

The Grab & Go will also accommodate the needs of students with allergies or religion requirements, such as kosher foods, by dedicating a section to these products.

DDC is also seeking student input through weekly taste tests that started in March, to try new food items.

“This way students can be part of the solution when it comes to menu,” said Vincent Flemming, the director of dining services.

A new dry storage area will be erected in the rear of the center to free more space for the new service area.

The last major update to DDC occurred in 1994 to coincide with the opening of Sweet Hall. The previous renovations included refurbishing the service area, expanding the dining room, and improving the building’s HVAC system.

A new digital signage system used to post dining menus and campus news will be part of the renovation. The system will also allow a number of events to be promoted in DDC.

In addition to the dining hall renovations, the college’s meal plan offerings will also be updated. Spurred in part by Joshua Laguerre, president of RIC’s Student Community Government, the meal plans for resident students will offer students more dining options at the same price.

According to Penfield, Laguerre received feedback from the student body about the current meal plan system and worked with the Food Service advisory board to propose changes that would improve the current system and student satisfaction, as well as put RIC on par with other institutions.

The changes to the system have since been approved by the Board of Governors for Higher Education and will occur as part of the DDC renovations.

The existing system will be replaced with four plans. Each will offer a set amount of meals, as well as offer points and several guest passes so students will be able to offer their guests food without using their points or meals. All four plans are equally priced.

The current system is comprised of five separate meal plans – two board plans that give students a set amount of meals; two convenience plans that give students a certain amount of points to purchase food; and a deluxe plan, which offers points and board meals that was put in place to coincide with the opening of the new residence hall in fall 2007.

Additionally, students will have the option of using their points at any time in any of the three campus dining venues.

DDC’s hours will be adjusted to ensure that food is available for students throughout the day.

Renovations are slated to begin in mid-April with the construction of the new storage area at the rear of the building. Interior construction will begin after commencement and will continue throughout the summer.

DDC will remain open during the renovations.