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Roger Williams University
Students at Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI enjoy the annual Lobster & Steak dinner.

What a Treat: Surf & Turf Tradition for Students

Annual Steak & Lobster Dinner at Roger Williams University gets students talking, posting tweets, donning lobster bibs.

Students at Roger Williams University eagerly anticipate the school's annual Lobster & Steak dinner. It’s a tradition that began years ago as an evening of luxurious dining to celebrate the beginning of spring and the ending of the academic year.

Today, social media plays a big part in building the excitement, says Stephanie Colliton-Keith, marketing manager, Bon Appetit for Roger Williams University, Bristol, RI.

“We saw a huge stream of Twitter comments about the meal all through the night,” Colliton-Keith says, adding that the event has reached legendary status and is always mentioned on campus tours, ensuring that “even freshmen know about this in advance.”

“The fact that I’ll be eating lobster in my dining hall tonight is simply amazing,” wrote one student on Twitter hours before the event.

This year, more than 1,660 guests got to treat themselves to 1,200 lobsters and 750 steaks. There was a vegetarian option, bleu cheese-topped mushroom steaks over arugula. Other items included BBQ chicken, traditional Rhode Island clam cakes, baked potatoes with assorted toppings, grilled asparagus, mixed seasonal vegetables and a dessert bar with strawberry shortcake, whoopie pies and cookies.

Roger Williams University
The kitchen staff at Roger Williams University.

Many of the items were sourced locally, such as the lobsters from Maine; clams for the clam cakes from Rhode Island; steaks from Northeast Family Farms in Hancock, MA; as many vegetables as possible from Jansal Valley Farm in South Dartmouth, MA and potatoes from Tiverton, RI.

Throughout the event, tweets from students included photos of themselves wearing lobster bibs and comments like “such a good meal!” and “ready to eat all of the lobster” and “I love this place.” (Talk about excellent free PR.) One student even tweeted that it was her first time trying lobster. At each of the “start times,” RWU’s twitter account let people know when it was time for them to come and eat.

The dinner was included on meal plans, and it was also available for anyone not on a meal plan. The cost was $18, higher than a normal dinner price due to the extent of the menu.

The dinner took place in two residential cafes, the Upper Commons on RWU’s main campus and Baypoint, a smaller dining hall located in a sophomore dorm. To ease the “extremely long lines we’ve had in the past, we asked that all guests who are anticipating joining us for dinner pick up a ticket for a seating time,” Colliton-Keith says. Seating was staggered: 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

A raffle took place during dinner to add to the fun, with students winning such things as iPad Minis, Kindle Fires, Shell gas cards, Dick’s Sporting Goods gift cards, Sony TVs, Red Sox tickets and Yankees tickets.

“This raffle really gets the students pumped up,” Colliton-Keith says. “Overall, we got a ton of great feedback about the event and happy students.”

Making the most of all the bounty, leftover lobster became lobster rolls and lobster bisque, and the shells were used to make stock.

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