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Best Concepts: Renovated dining hall at Grambling State University gives campus dining a major upgrade

Grambling State University Dining and management company partner SodexoMagic have been named winner of the 2021 FM Best Concept Award in the Best Renovation category for their impressive overhaul of the school’s venerable McCall Dining Hall.

Like other colleges and universities, Grambling State University, a historically black university in Louisiana, has had to deal with the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. For the 2020-2021 academic year, the school experienced a modest decline in the number of students living on campus—from the 2,200-2,400 range down to around 2,000 in the recently completed academic year—and a reduction in campus traffic with many courses being offered online.

Still, that hasn’t stopped the campus dining program, which is managed by SodexoMagic, from completing a major $5 million renovation project, as the newly reconstructed McCall Dining Hall, the only all-you-care-to-eat dining facility on the Grambling campus, opened for business on Jan. 7th. The new McCall not only boasts 10 serving stations and 24-hour operation complete with a special “late night munchies” overnight menu, but a state-of-the-art sound system, performance stage, game room and two rooms where students can study or hold meetings.

While planning for the renovation preceded the pandemic, construction was undertaken starting in the late spring and had to deal with the restrictions imposed by the crisis. In addition, the design also had to be adjusted to conform to the new reality, says Alan Johnson, regional safety coordinator-Guillory region and senior general manager for Sodexo Campus Services.

“We had to make a number of accommodations as relates to CDC guideline requirements, such as multiple sanitizing stations throughout the dining facility, sneeze-guards over all food items and switching from self-serve to a 100% full-service location, including even beverages and utensils,” he explains. “It took a lot of planning to get those logistics down.”

The results seem to have been worth it, with daily traffic in the 1,000 to 1,500 range.

“Students have been super excited coming in, expressing lot of heartfelt thanks,” Johnson notes. “One said to me, ‘Now I know why I’m in college, because this environment was designed just for us!’”

That’s just what was intended, he says.

“The renovation was based on student wants and needs, and I think talking to them, we’ve come to a place where we hit the nail on the head with it.”

Here’s a photo tour of the renovated McCall…

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