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OSU chefs’ priority is “focusing on speed of service.”

Oregon State University dining team pivots menu from customizable to quick, keeps favorites and flavors

With a combination of in-person and online courses, campus life will be very different this fall at Oregon State. Executive Chef Jaime Herrera and the food service team are prepping for mobile ordering, a streamlined menu and a different way to hospitality.

Like many campuses this fall, Oregon State University in Corvallis plans a combination of in-person and online courses, while following the pandemic situation closely. With that in mind, the dining team is taking what information they do have now and using it to formulate a plan that’s flexible if need be. Getting meals to the campus community safely is top of mind, and one way to do that is taking things outside.

“Our dining team is creating outdoor pick-up/order locations to allow guests to get meals without entering dining locations,” says Executive Chef Jaime Herrera, who identifies the chefs’ priority as “focusing on speed of service.” For now, creativity, sustainability and customization will be secondary.

The mobile ordering and delivery programs have been bolstered by partnering with a third party, and supply chain challenges are being eased by partnerships with manufacturers during this uncertain time, “since we’re focusing on a smaller inventory,” Herrera says.

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As for the customizable dishes, a calling card pre-COVID on so many college dining menus, “Our dining team will alter the customizable dish offerings to help simplify menus while continuing to offer students variety and the dishes they request,” Herrera says. For example, “our popular grain bowls and entrée salads, which had previously been guests building their own by choosing each ingredient, now they will choose from three to four predesigned options while choosing protein and dressing.”

Items like sandwiches, that have the potential to be boring, will be amped up with different ingredients and new flavor combos to keep things interesting.

The dining team has streamlined menus without getting rid of individual concepts, with some signature favorites produced differently or in different locations, “but the core elements continue to be available,” Herrera says. “We needed to assess which of our menu items created spaces of social gathering and rethink those processes to allow for quick service by affecting the customizability.”

Comfort food favorites will continue to be a big part of the menu, Herrera says, especially in trying times like these. That includes “the tried-and-true” burritos, he adds.

“A silver lining is seeing our teams’ resiliency in adapting to the day-to-day changes and improving our leadership abilities in communicating needs to the team quickly and effectively,” Herrera says.

Contact Tara at [email protected].

Follow her on Twitter @Tara_Fitzie.

TAGS: Coronavirus
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