Facility Design Project of the Year

Recognizes the best of the Facility Design Projects of the Month; selected based the quality of the design and execution and its ability to meet the operator’s goals.


2017 Facility Design Project of the Year, Honorable Mention: Wilkerson Dining Center in Wilkerson Commons at the University of North Dakota (UND), Grand Forks

A culinary support center and contemporary food-themed platforms transform the dining experience in this campus hub.

 Each food concept could be a stand-alone project with its exhibition-style service and backup and storage. Photograph by Corey Gaffer

Wilkerson Dining Center Facts

  • Opened: Sept. 20, 2015
  • Scope of Project: Complete renovation of and addition to a 1960s building, including a central support kitchen and serving area with contemporary food-themed platforms and seating redesign. The lower level contains a large open gaming, gathering and studying area, performance space, meeting rooms, service area for the university's residence life department, mail and package delivery, computer labs and a convenience store.
  • Size: Kitchen, 13,760 sq. ft.; serving area, 8,000 sq. ft.; main dining room, 7,300 sq. ft.; secondary dining room, 2,075 sq. ft.
  • Seats: 420 in the primary dining room; 125 in secondary dining room; 40 on patio
  • Daily Customer Count: 3,500
  • Average Check: AYCTE, but $11 if a guest pays for one meal
  • Payment Options: Credit cards, cash, meal plan
  • Total Annual Sales: $6.5 million
  • Hours: 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily
  • Menu Specialties: Featured menu items at the nine main floor platforms, which include Global Cuisine, Dakota Homestyle, Gourmet Noodle, Wood-Fired Italiano, The Grille, Garden Greens, Delicatessen with adjacent Panini Grill, Sizzling Salads, Allergen-Free, Sweet Endings, Chef's Table, Beverages, Grab and Go Café
  • Staff: 5 managers; 35 full-time staff; 20 temporary staff (non-benefitted); 150 students
  • Total Project Cost: $27 million; $10 million for construction
  • Equipment Cost: $4.2 million
  • Website: www.dining.und.edu

Garden Greens welcomes customers into Wilkerson Dining Center. Photography by Tyler Ingham, graphic/interactive media designer, UND.

Wilkinson Dining Center Team

  • Owner: University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, N.D.
  • Vice President of Student Affairs (during project): Dr. Lori Reesor
  • Interim Vice President for Student Affairs: Dr. Laurie Betting
  • Executive Director of Housing and Dining: Connie Frazier
  • Director of Dining Services: Orlynn Rosaasen
  • Assistant Director for Residential Dining: Jason Gallagher
  • Executive Chef: Greg Gefroh
  • Dietitian: Dustin Frize, RD
  • Architect: JLG Architects, Grand Forks, N.D.; Jim Galloway, principal; Randy Lieberg, project architect; Tracy Jordre, project manager
  • Associate Architect: Solomon Cordwell Buenz, Chicago; Jim Curtin, senior vice president; Steve Olson, associate principal
  • Interior Design: Solomon Cordwell Buenz, Chicago; Gail Wozniak, LEED AP, design coordinator
  • Foodservice Design Consultants: Rippe Associates, Minneapolis; Terry Pellegrino, principal; John Dunne, senior project manager; Ryan Braudt, project manager; Monica Thesing, senior equipment specialist
  • Equipment Dealer: TriMark Gill Group, Helena, Mont., branch; Spencer Swanson
  • Construction: J.E. Dunn, Minneapolis branch

Worth Mentioning: The Judges’ Comments

  • The design is cohesive, incorporating sound foodservice design principles as it relates to product and people movement.
  • This project gets a lot done in an average-sized space.
  • Designers took a standard servery and elevated it to a new level.
  • Because of the layout and the adequate space for
  • circulation, the service area is never congested.
  • The space is extremely efficient and has the capacity to serve more than 1,100 students in 15 minutes if needed.
  • Each area could be a stand-alone project.
  • Each station has backup and storage.
  • This project combines sous vide and cook-chill, which is not easy to do.
  • We love the radius corners.
  • Designers used odd angles very well.
  • Consolidating a couple of dining facilities into this one helps the operator make better use of their labor year-round.
  • The results of this project justify the expenditures.
  • The operation serves as a good teaching component.
  • The dish room works well.
  • Stations meet customers’ needs for allergy sensitivity and gluten-free items.

 Objectives and Goals Set and Met

  • A staff member grills burgers at The Grille. Wilkerson had not been updated since the original construction dating back to the early 1970s. Even though Wilkerson was and still is the largest dining center on campus, pre-remodeling participation at Wilkerson was extremely low due to the condition of the facilities.
  • The objective was to provide UND residence hall students and the campus with a modern foodservice and community space.
  • The goals were to expand the food production areas with the addition of a central commissary, modernize the foodservice areas, improve food presentation, improve the loading dock, enhance the building's exterior presence, improve circulation throughout the building and add amenities that support the community.

Project Design Features

  • The Wilkerson Dining building was originally hexagonal in shape, making it difficult to efficiently accommodate the normally right-angled components, such as walk-ins.
  • Designers kept these units out of the corners and filled in the unusually shaped spaces with dry storage and office spaces. Also, designers worked around a very delicate structural system. The existing waffle slab had a very thin topping layer and formed a tight web of impenetrable structure. Shallow floor troughs were utilized to provide flexibility in locating many of the required floor drains, and adjustments were made to the equipment plan to accommodate structural conflicts with the equipment utility requirements identified by the BIM drawings.
  • The university administrators requested the dining center be ready for the start of the fall semester in 2015. Interior demolition on the existing building started in August of 2014, so the team had 12 months to finish the project.
  • As the campus' largest dining center, Wilkerson had to stay open during a large portion of construction in order to serve the UND community.
  • Two central food production areas were added to the back-of-the-house space to support dining functions campus-wide. The cook-chill/central production commissary work center produces soups, sauces, sous vide items, pasta and entree items, and drives labor efficiencies. The central cold food production area prepares sandwiches, salads, sliced deli meats and chopped fruits and vegetables for all dining locations on campus.
  • The front-of-the-house servicing area was expanded to nine display cooking platforms. Culinary staff now produce the majority of the food to order in front of the students.
  • The modifications to the loading dock also drove efficiencies. Since tractor trailer units can now back up to the loading dock for deliveries, supplies for this location no longer go through UND's central warehouse for redistribution. This change allowed the department to eliminate one full-time position with benefits from the warehouse staff.
  • This project included a 20,000-square-foot addition on the street side of the building. The exterior of the addition is wrapped in glass and stone and provides students with a magnificent view of the campus and a coulee from the dining center. A patio with a fireplace was also added to the University Avenue side of the building.
  • The efficient design allows finished products to flow in two directions: toward the serving area for items that support daily meal service within Wilkerson and toward the dock for central production items that are distributed throughout campus. To accommodate this, well-defined circulation paths were created between the primary work centers with the central production stations to the outside and ingredient assembly in the center.

Since the Renovation

  • A staff member places ingredients into a kettle for cook-chill production. Cook-chill production enhances efficiency and consistency. Photography by Charles CrummyThe layout, design and traffic flow have all met the expectations of the intended design.
  • The facility also transformed campus dining services. Because of the centralized production and cook-chill areas, menus across campus were diversified. Retail locations are no longer limited each day to the items on the residential menu but can offer any of the products in the commissary storage freezer.
  • The facility serves as a recruitment tool for the campus and athletics.
  • Since opening during the 2015 fall semester, Wilkerson Commons Dining Center has served more than 1,076,000 board meals — 58 percent of the board meals served on campus. Daily, Wilkerson Commons serves about 3,000 meals. Prior to the renovation, Wilkerson served about 2,400 meals per day (approximately 44 percent of the board meals served on campus).
  • As a result of going trayless, dining services staff reduced postconsumer waste by approximately 45 percent in this facility compared to facilities where customers still use trays. At Wilkerson Dining Center, average student waste is approximately 1.8 ounces per student compared to 3.3 ounces per student in facilities with trays.
  • With the addition of the culinary support center and centralized production of fresh vegetables, salads, sandwiches, soups, sauces and proteins, overall food costs have declined by approximately 4.9 percent compared to the previous year when staff operated without a culinary support center.
  • "The facility is meeting all of our expectations," says Orlynn Rosaasen, director of Dining Services. "We have seen an increase in student traffic in the dining center and an increase in the use of the social and gathering spaces on the lower level. By centralizing the slicing of deli meats, cheeses, vegetable prep and the production of soups, sauces and pastas, we have increased the efficiencies of the front-line staff while improving product consistency and quality. Kitchen staff can focus on the finished product versus ingredient prep."