Deciding where to eat just got a whole lot easier for the 1,200 employees of Continental Tire in Sumter, S.C., thanks to a newly renovated dining room with a 1,600-square-foot, state-of-the-art kitchen that opened in February.
“With so many employees and 24-hour operations, it became obvious that we needed to improve our foodservice options,” says Craig Baartman, plant manager.
When Continental Tire opened in Sumter in 2013, there was a space measuring roughly 2,000 square feet for employees to dine, but the options inside it were limited to a few self-serve vending machines. No kitchen was ever built.
As the company has expanded over the past five years, so has the need for more substantial dining choices.
“We wanted to create a world-class cafeteria that all employees could access during all shifts,” says Baartman.
To bridge the gap between vending and a full-service cafeteria, Continental Tire invited a few local food trucks onto campus to serve breakfast and lunch. This solution satisfied some, but it didn’t meet the needs of all employees, especially those who work outside of the aforementioned meal periods.
“As our production volume grew, so did our employee base,” says Baartman. “As soon as we crossed the 1,000-employee mark, we decided to add a fully equipped kitchen to our existing dining hall and give our employees the option of healthy food as well.”
Continental Tire began by refreshing its dining room with a fresh coat of paint. The floors were refinished, and new, more comfortable seating options were added. New light fixtures were also installed to brighten up the space.
“We installed modern audio-video equipment so that employees could enjoy their meal along with a variety of info-tainment,” says Baartman, adding that there are plans to expand the dining space to an outdoor patio once the weather improves.
Since Continental Tire didn’t have a kitchen previously, the back of house had to be built from the ground up in a space that was previously used for storage. A dishwasher room, pot washing station, office, dry storage, walk-in cooler and freezer and a spacious kitchen were retrofitted into the building.
The café debuted to employees in February and now features a rotating menu served from five different stations that include a salad bar, a hot foods station, a grill, a sub shop and pizzeria. Self-service beverages are available in one station while three separate coolers offer a wider variety of drinks in another. Grab-and-go snacks were also added.
“Digital displays show the daily menu as well as general information on sustainability and health topics,” says Baartman. “This area was designed to provide a well-organized service flow in a modern visual space. Ceramic floor, subway tiles on the serving area, quartz countertop and vibrant colors are part of the look.”
All in, the renovation cost approximately $1 million and took six months to complete. Now, the space serves roughly 450 employees at each meal period over a 24-hour period. Menus change weekly.
“It was very important for us to find the right partner for providing high-quality services to our employees,” says Baartman. “After a standard and rigorous internal selection procedure we partnered with Canteen, part of the Compass Group USA.”
A previous menu: