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Lehigh opens library café, doubles venue sales

Unit hits the cultural sweet spot in terms of providing a dining option in a classic collaborative space, which is what trend data shows is popular with college students.

Earlier this fall, Lehigh University Dining and contract management firm Sodexo held the grand opening of the newly created café inside the main entrance of Lehigh’s Fairchild-Martindale Library. The debut heralded immediate positive results as within just the first two weeks of its opening, the new café has more than doubled sales in the venue from last year, according Lehigh Dining Retail Manager Jason Lenig. 

“Throughput of customers has been in excess of a thousand per day, and the dining team continues to receive great feedback from students, faculty and staff,” Lenig says.

Lehigh Dining / SodexoFML_JT_4.jpg

The café features fresh hand-crafted breakfast and signature sandwiches such as salami and prosciutto pesto baguette (pictured), tomato and mozzarella focaccia, garlic chicken Caesar ciabatta, plus noodle and grain salads, sushi, house-baked goods, smoothies like Tropical Sunshine (pineapple, mango, banana, coconut, orange juice and yogurt), strawberry banana, peach blueberry and Berry Blast (blueberries, strawberries and yogurt), along with Peet's Coffee & Tea branded beverages.

“Four years ago, we opened a small Peet’s Coffee service in a small lounge area of the basement of the Fairchild-Martinedale Library,” notes Lehigh Dining General Manager Bruce Christine about the relationship with the high-end West Coast coffee vendor. “As time progressed, and student trends developed, we outgrew that small service [and] both Lehigh Dining and library administration recognized the need for an enhanced café.”

Christine says the library is a natural venue for such a café because it is a natural collaborative space similar to Lehigh’s University Center that accords with a cultural shift toward such communal spaces.

With that kind of demographic and cultural trend information in mind, meetings and planning involving both the dining and library began over a year ago with an eye toward developing a feasibility plan, which was then followed by a site plan evaluation that launched the evolution of an entirely new landscape. In the end, it was the library’s administration, Lehigh’s facilities management team, representatives from Student Auxiliary Services and from Sodexo that successfully designed a collaborative workspace that keeps the culture and philosophy of the library whole.

The new space is now located on the main floor of the library, offering a great view of the campus crosswalks. The location is also a major thoroughfare for students as they go to classes, as well as the library or other buildings on campus.

Lehigh Dining and Sodexo also operate a number of other foodservice outlets on the campus, including three residential dining halls, eight fixed retail locations in addition to the new library café and the Fud Truck mobile culinary unit.

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