Fordham Dining Services will welcome students back this year with a newly renovated Ram Café. The popular dining spot underwent changes in response to customer feedback last year and said they will reopen with new cuisine options, improved customer contact, and streamlined methods for food service.
The renovations, which began in late May, were chiefly overseen by Fordham Capital Projects (FCP), Fordham Dining’s general contractor for the last five years. Aramark and Freshens, Fordham-partnered companies, provided design and building specifications for their areas individually under FCP’s project manager.
The café’s most significant changes include the installation of a Freshens Fresh Food Company area, an improved Aramark Grill and an expanded salad bar. Fordham Dining Services hopes to overcome specific customer complaints from last year, including a limited variety of food options and cumbersome lines for food and payment.
The addition of the Freshens Food Studio aims to expand the options of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options available to students at Ram Café. Described as a “healthy ‘fast casual’ concept” in their advertisements, Freshens will offer smoothies, rice bowls and salads among other dishes.
“The amount of variety and the number of options to choose from is going to increase dramatically,” Deming Yaun, Fordham University dining contract liaison, said of Freshens’ varied menu. Out of three options proposed by dining services, the Food Committee of Lincoln Center United Student Government chose Freshens as the best fit for the college.
For students who have vegan and vegetarian diets, Freshens’ new options are a welcome change. “I feel like with the options I’ve had these past two years, I’ve been able to maintain a vegetarian diet but not necessarily a healthy vegetarian diet,” Noel Langan, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) 20, said. “I really like the idea of a more health-based, plant-based dining option at Fordham … it’s a good move for Fordham, considering there is such a great number of vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and people who are just interested in eating healthier, more balanced and less meat-centric diets at Fordham.”
Aramark Grill also underwent improvements to increase customer service and satisfaction. One major change is the removal of a hood between the café and food counter that blocked customers from seeing the person making their food. Yaun said the new set-up will ensure better customer contact and improve customer service. Other additions included an expanded self-serve salad bar with options for soup and hot food by the ounce.
Both the Aramark Grill and Freshens Food Studio are national brands whose Ram Café locations will be monitored by brand divisions. This means the restaurants’ menus specify the products and equipment used to make their food and have pre-set standards for preparation, presentation and price.
Fordham Aramark managers underwent training during the summer in order to ensure company standards would be instituted and upheld throughout the school year. Additionally, brand representatives of both Aramark and Freshens will assist Fordham dining managers during Ram Café’s opening and will return periodically throughout the year to conduct quality assurance checks on the restaurants (locations must score a 95 percent success to pass inspection) and introduce new products.
Future endeavors at Fordham Dining may include reconfiguring seating to better accommodate large groups and introducing on-campus food carts to cater to individuals who need to eat on the go, said Yaun.
Yaun said there is no current plan for further renovation once the Ram Café is open. “We’re at a point now where we’re becoming comfortable with where the Lincoln Center restaurant portfolio is,” he said. “As long as the brand partners we’re doing business with keep infusing freshness into their own brands, we are able to bring freshness here.”