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UCLAfood1.jpg Photos: Tiffany Chen

University students flock to joint dining/study facility

UCLA builds high-design European-style food hall and open study space.

The Study at Hedrick was formerly Hedrick Commons, a traditional 650-seat cafeteria located on the ground floor of a 1961 residential hall on the UCLA campus. It was also the least popular spot for students to eat. The building sits up a steep hill, away from the campus core, so many weren’t willing to make the trek to grab a meal between classes.

But Al Ferrone, senior director of food and beverage of housing and hospitality services, says the university couldn’t afford to let it go unused.

“Space is at a premium,” he says. “It’s a high-density environment.” The program needs to maximize the use of every dining space in order to feed the 13,000 students housed on campus and Hedrick’s low numbers were dragging down the efficiency of the program. It was also clear that the dining program needed a new bakery.

When dining started to explore a renovation, UCLA surveyed students and found that there was a severe shortage of desirable study space. They began to think about a hybrid approach to a remodel, a place where students could eat and study in the same contemporary space.

Peter Angeles, assistant vice chancellor of housing and hospitality services, says it became clear that students “like to study in an environment that’s somewhat more casual. They like to be able to look up from their work, to see other people, and re-engage.”

So they decided to combine a new bakery, on the production side, with a comprehensive array of study options and a menu centered on create-your-own-meal options.

To conceptualize the space, they reached out to Johnson Favaro, an architectural firm with experience building libraries for other institutions. The visuals of the space have made a splash.

An open floor plan includes a walk-around fireplace with soft chairs ringing the hearth. A walled-off study space has partial views of activity in the main areas so students can study quietly without feeling isolated. There are study rooms for different sized groups and a collection of Scandinavian-style couches, tables and desks that look out on a treed area through a floor-to-ceiling glass wall.

Despite its high design, the space is not a museum. Food and drinks are allowed in all study spaces, inviting students to settle in.

There’s a full espresso bar with coffee, tea, and specialty drinks using products from The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. The menu in the food hall is designed, and altered daily, to meet the needs of students and elevate the campus dining experience.

A sample menu lists an array of build-your own options featuring organic, seasonal ingredients. A craft-your-own beverage station invites students to mix fruits with nitro cold-brewed black or green tea, chia fresca, lemonade or spritzer. They offer bagel, waffle, tartine, and crepe options as well as a build-your-own breakfast skillet that piles a student’s choice of eggs and a meat or avocado topping over a potato, pepper and onion hash.

For lunch, students can build their own traditional sandwiches or visit the Best of the Wurst, a sausage sandwich bar where they can pick a from a list of five sausages (including a vegan option) and add two toppings from a list of nine that includes sauerkraut, smoked paprika hummus, caramelized onions and spicy tomato relish. It’s served on a house-baked ficelle roll. They also have soups, a salad bar and a craft-your-own pizza station.

All foods are made from scratch in-house or in the campus commissary, located in another building on campus. A team of chefs researches trends and ingredients. They keep close track of sales records and change the menu accordingly to curb food waste and keep students from getting bored.

The Study at Hedrick opened last January, but the bakery in the 7,000-square-foot bakery and kitchen, a major focus of the $9.1 million project, is still being renovated. Once in full operation, Ferrone says he expects that they’ll offer an array of breads and pastries daily, including baguettes, rolls, country loaves, croissants and sliced breads. Pastries and desserts will include chocolate mouse, panna cotta, Napoleans and many other sweets.

In all, The Study at Hedrick employs about 45 foodservice workers who make and serve between 4,500 and 5,000 meals of the 32,000 meals served across campus each day. All meals are part of the campus meal plan.

“We’ve exceeded our goals,” Ferrone says.

In fact, the project has been so successful that the university has started planning a similar project, with a self-service focus, due to open in 2020.

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