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Fresh Take

Dining hall transformation offers more options and fresh appeal

New to the menu this year at Ohio Northern University is a completely remodeled and refurbished dining hall in McIntosh Center.

Sodexo executive chef John Hagar prepares food on the round griddle in 360 Grill.The transformed space, which opened to students this fall, became reality through collaboration between Ohio Northern and Sodexo, ONU’s dining services and facilities management partner, in order to cater to the tastes of today’s college students as never before. The renovations offer expanded meal options as well as a more open and inviting atmosphere.

“Our overarching goal was a transformation of campus dining services to become a hub of activity and fellowship for our students to enjoy both meals and connections,” says Noah Ristau, ONU general manager for Sodexo. “Ideas were generated with the University leadership, food service professionals from Sodexo, and key stakeholders like Student Life and the Student Senate – and of course by speaking with lots and lots of students to find out what they wanted in their dining service program.” 

At the focal point of the reimagined space is the brand new 360 Grill, a new meal station where diners handpick their own ingredients and then watch a chef cook their creation right in front of them on a large Mongolian-style griddle. This offers unique and fun meal customization and is a student favorite.

I really love what was done with the 360 Grill,” says Clara Huffman, a junior psychology major from Avon Lake, Ohio. “The food just feels fresher, and I like the attention to detail that the made-to-order feel provides.

Other new meal stations include Stacks, a signature made-to-order deli; Simple Servings, offering safe allergen-free and gluten-free options; Tossed, where diners can have an entrée salad tossed to order; and Mindful, which offers several healthy food options. Fired Up provides pizzas and individual baked pastas, and Daily Dish delivers classic comfort foods, featuring student favorites and rotating specials.

One major goal of the renovation was to make the food preparation as transparent as possible by bringing it out front and making it visible. Diners can see where all of their food comes from and how it’s prepared. This not only improves functionality but also yields a much stronger presentation for students.

The previous outdoor courtyard was converted into an inviting atrium dining area.Nothing goes better with great food than an inviting atmosphere to enjoy it in. That’s why the renovated area has a more open, casual and appealing look and feel. The previous outdoor courtyard area, largely unused before, was converted into an indoor atrium dining area and has become a spot students immediately gravitate toward. Varied seating options, including large and small tables and booths, make the space more comfortable and inviting for any individual or group.

"The booths are really awesome and are a great personal addition to the McIntosh experience,” says Alex Bowen, a freshman political science major from Brunswick, Ohio. “The booths just feel more personal to me and make me feel like I can have a conversation with the person sitting next to me, unlike the old military barracks style."

Seth Ferguson, a junior political science major from Mansfield, Ohio, says, “I’m really surprised at how nice the renovations turned out, and by far my favorite part has to be the inclusion of the courtyard and all the sunlight and open space that is out there.”

The renovation caps off a massive transformation of McIntosh Center that began in 2016 with the opening of Polar Espresso, the building’s Starbucks coffee shop, and WOW Café, an in-house eatery featuring wings, wraps, sandwiches and snacks. New flooring was also installed throughout the building over the summer, giving McIntosh a fresh, sleek look.

McIntosh Center has a new life thanks to all of the changes here,” Ristau says. “All of the thoughtful attention to detail throughout the building has made this a destination that is truly for the students and, in many ways, by the students. Through Ohio Northern and Sodexo’s partnership, we have a showcase dining hall in an amazing building that both embodies the mission of Ohio Northern University and captures the elements that make this such a special place.