Cornell University already has prestigious and highly rated hospitality, food science, and agriculture schools, as well as a dining program that is a permanent presence in the Top 10 of the University’s Best Campus Foods list. Princeton Review and other academic food rankings. So what can be added to this already high game?
How about Morrison Dining, a 58,230 square foot. food hall-style complex with 11 micro restaurant concepts and, sitting in the middle, a 2,400 square foot restaurant. food lab that merges the school’s dining service and academic missions through a collaboration between Cornell Dining and the Division of Nutritional Sciences.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the entire Cornell Dining team in planning and executing Morrison Dining,” said Dustin Cutler, executive director of restaurant services. “The scope of this project is beyond anything our organization has seen, and I’m very excited for the opportunity for this team of talented cooks, managers and frontline associates to shine.”
Named after former Nobel Pulitzer Prize-winning student Toni Morrison, Morrison Dining opened at the start of the 2022 spring semester, but operated take-out only for the first two weeks due to a COVID surge. on campus, a sort of blessing in disguise as it allowed for a form of soft opening to speed up the operation and allow staff to get a feel for it. Full service began Feb. 7, allowing students and other members of the campus community to take full advantage of the eye-catching vibe, which includes an almost exclusive focus on made-to-order dishes and more than a thousand seats. to eat there.
The ratio has been around 95% at the restaurant since, with only a few takeout customers, Cutler says. He says the main impact of the move to on-site catering has been felt primarily in the back of the house and in the dish room, as service has shifted from all disposables to china and cutlery.
“With the design of the facility encouraging adventure and going from platform to platform, tasting the different foods, it tends to pile up the plates, especially in an all-you-can-eat facility,” explains- he. “That and being a bit understaffed, we really felt the pressure when we first made the switch.”
Other adjustments made by the move to on-site dining included readjusting queue spaces at the most popular stations so that they do not interfere with adjacent stations or seats, and refining the timings of production to meet fluctuations in demand in the production and curating kitchens also located in the complex.
Morrison Dining is part of a larger North Campus residential project intended to provide enough on-campus housing (some 2,000 additional beds) to implement a two-year residency requirement while providing dining and social spaces attractive and appropriate facilities such as a fitness center, an artificial turf recreation ground, common areas and multi-purpose rooms for these students.
“Planning the opening of Morrison Dining was a monumental task that could not have happened without the efforts of our entire team,” Cutler notes. “The fact that the team accomplished all of this – and a huge hiring and onboarding surge – during a global pandemic is particularly impressive.”
The centerpiece of the North Campus project’s new dining facilities, Morrison Dining incorporates not only an extensive front-of-house residential dining operation, but also rear-of-house production kitchens, including police station, and a restoration operation. Integrating these three operations into a single facility gives Cornell Dining the ability to improve collaboration and efficiency between them.
A separate outlet called Crossings Café is also located in the Morrison complex, serving salads, signature paninis and sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches, smoothies and specialty coffees and teas, while a second , called Novick Café, is set to open later this year.
The food hall itself is divided into four directional quadrants, with each quadrant also incorporating separate food platforms.
The East Side Market quadrant includes a salad bar serving both daily mixed salads and a “build-your-own” item, the major allergen-free Flat Top Grill which is Cornell Dining’s first dedicated vegan station. Also included in this quadrant is fruit/juice/smoothie, which serves fresh fruit, smoothies, infused waters, lemon, and lemonade.
“We’ve heard from students who are increasingly looking for plant-based options at mealtime,” Cutler says of the need to incorporate these stations into Morrison Dining’s concept mix. “The most impactful thing about the East Side Market, as we refer to our vegan grill and salad bar, is the ability to really customize your own ‘planted’ bowl. We did the math: over 500,000 unique combinations are available in our salad bar, which offers a multitude of grains, greens and legumes.
Nearby, the West Side Grill quadrant is home to the Iron Grill station with its classic American breakfast and themed bars for lunch and dinner; Wok, with themed menus based on regional Asian cuisine as well as global breakfast specialties and an extensive noodle bar with 15 different vegetable topping options; a rotisserie; a traditional hot line with comfort food and classic dishes; a wood-fired grill serving small mixed plates; and Plancha with grilled vegetables and fresh fish from the market.
“When the layers of rotisserie ovens, the wood-burning grill and the Plancha grill come on at night — and they’re only used at night — they attract students who just watch us cook,” Cutler observes.
The North End quadrant offers pizzas from two Mara Forini pizza ovens and custom pasta dishes made with artisan pasta prepared in front of customers. Both platforms have received rave reviews from students, Cutler says.
Finally, the South End quadrant is the dessert/sweet area, with the famous Cornell Dairy ice cream as well as waffles made with homemade batter and pancakes with an array of creative toppings.
Separately, Morrison Dining’s kosher station offers fleishig (meat) meals produced by 104 West, Cornell Dining’s kosher dining facility, while the Halal station offers zabiha-certified meats.
“Students really appreciate that we didn’t think of these stations as an afterthought,” Cutler observes. “A lot of times it’s a request from students to have them on your campus, so you have to rearrange them. For us, it was very intentional to integrate Kosher and Halal stations into the overall scheme and plan of Morrison Dining. ”
Discovery Kitchen, the collaboration between Cornell Dining and the Division of Nutritional Science, is kind of the centerpiece of it all. This is a modern, well-equipped, multi-faceted space designed for special events, student classes, testing/recipe development. and staff professional development.
“One of the most unique parts of Morrison Dining is the potential it brings to connect academics and the residential experience,” says Cutler. “Our partnership with the Division of Nutritional Sciences to operate the Discovery Kitchen is truly the first of its kind for our program, and we are truly excited to explore the possibility of university coursework intersecting with the culinary development of our team and of our program.”
Even Morrison Dining’s beverage stations received extra attention, serving only sugar-free fountain drinks and rolling out separate water dispensers with sparkling, still and alkaline water to support Cornell’s commitment to sustainability. Menus of Change initiative.
For students, Morrison Dining’s food hall design offers multi-faceted seating areas in which customers can explore and find full meals on the individual platforms or choose from the nearly endless number of options and choices. ‘ingredients. Seating is intentionally arranged to create micro-restaurant experiences, each with its own unique look, while the design promotes community, collaboration and discovery for the campus population.
In the first full month of operation, attendance hit forecasts, Cutler says, noting that he made 5,500 transactions on a recent Sunday, when two meal periods — brunch and dinner — were served.
“We also get outstanding feedback from our students,” he says. “They like the setup, the design, the way we’ve integrated the equipment into the space and the seats that nestle around the 11 different platforms.”
Customers aren’t the only ones impressed, he adds. “Our staff are really impressed with some of the improvements we’ve made to the facility and how we’ve really showcased our culinary abilities. Showcasing our people was really important to us.
Cutler admits Morrison is not yet operating to its full potential due to labor constraints, even though the department has hired 110 more people to prepare for Morrison Dining’s debut. For example, the pasta station, intended to offer custom dishes every day, sometimes has to default to batch cooking at the station, while the pizza station currently only does large pizzas and serves slices, unlike to its goal of offering personalized personal pizzas that are made to order.
However, “for the most part, the facility is used [as intended],” he adds. “The good news is that we were able to present the food in a seamless and just-in-time manner. The majority of stations are open every day and there are no seating restrictions. seated, so that our student guests experience a normal dining situation.
This dining situation — barely “normal” given the range and quality of choice — is integral to Cornell’s continued elevation of the campus experience, he adds.
“I have always believed strongly that food is at the heart of a community, and this restaurant is in the center of the second village,” he says. “It was very intentional to leverage this space to enhance collaboration and community efforts while integrating scholars into student life on campus, and this facility will give us the vehicle to be able to do these very critical things here at Cornell University.”