When the concept debuted back in 2010, Simply Puur was designed to be a quality small-site solution for certain corporate dining environments served by Compass Group. In the years since, it has also become a signature concept for the company emphasizing great-tasting, healthful and sustainable dishes incorporating local ingredients as much as possible.
This school year, Simply Puur has migrated into the secondary school market with a unit at Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Cranbrook is a college preparatory primary and secondary campus of more than 1,600 students, with a portion of the upper school students being boarders. The concept provides the upper school (i.e., high school) campus with an all-day relaxation space as well as a retail meal alternative to the cafeterias.
“It provides a location for students to go between classes and after school and also for our boarding students to hang out and study on evenings and weekends,” says Allison Mitchell, resident district manager for Chartwells Great Lakes Region, which operates dining at Cranbrook.
The Cranbrook Simply Puur station had a soft opening with a bare-bones menu for a couple of weeks last May, and then opened fully last fall with the start of the 2016-2017 school year. It sits in the basement of a building on the upper school end of campus in an area that had once served as a domestic science classroom.
The station now serves a menu that includes coffee drinks from local roaster Great Lakes Coffee Co., smoothies, baked goods, sandwiches, salads, flatbreads and even sushi. Just about everything, including the bakery items, are made in house, with the one exception being the sushi, which is produced by a local vendor and delivered fresh daily.
“We make everything here so we can control what goes into it,” Mitchell says.
Some selections are packaged for grab-and-go convenience, while others are available made to order. The surrounding area seats 45 and serves as a space where students can relax and hang out.
“It’s definitely an all-student space,” Mitchell emphasizes. “Faculty and staff are invited to stop by and purchase a coffee, but the seating is reserved for students only.”
The menu was designed to optimize its appeal to the upper school student body, Mitchell explains. Because Cranbrook does not participate in the National School Lunch Program, Chartwells says it has more flexibility to be creative while balancing appeal and healthfulness.
“Cranbrook had decided several years ago that they wanted to open a café here on campus, and we had to come up with something that was a little different” from what was being served in the upper school’s two regular dining halls, Mitchell recalls. “So we spent a lot of time talking to students and finding out what they’re going off campus for.”
Popular choices mentioned by students included things like smoothies, sushi and organic items, “so the Simply Puur concept immediately seemed like it could be a fit for us” because of its emphasis on wholesome, freshly prepared, locally sourced dishes and ingredients, Mitchell says.
“It was not going to be gas station food,” she emphasizes. “It’s going to be really clean, healthy, trendy food.”
Because Cranbrook’s upper school also has two full-service dining halls where the meals are part of the tuition, the Simply Puur station gets minimal lunchtime traffic of only around 20 to 30 on an average day, while the bulk of the some 300 average daily transactions come at other times when students are between classes, on breaks or study periods or outside regular school hours.
The Simply Puur menu at Cranbrook differs somewhat from the concept’s menus at its traditional corporate dining locations because the concept emphasizes individualized selections designed for each location’s specific population. For one thing, no item at the Cranbrook location contains nuts because of the prevalence of nut allergies among youngsters (the same is true of the dining hall menus at Cranbrook).
“We are ever changing this menu and coming up with very student-based ideas all the time,” Mitchell says. “We are always looking for unique, trendy ingredients that are organic or wholesome.”