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Nailing the Development Process: A Campus Dining Perspective

Julaine Kiehn, director of Campus Dining at the University of Missouri, says the development process for the university’s The Restaurants at Southwest project worked very well. “We finally got it right,” she says. “It was our best to date.”

Here, Kiehn details the team’s successful planning process.

The first “develop the vision” meeting happened in May 2012, followed by a June 2013 meeting to refine that vision. From that point on, the team met nearly every month to continue refining the vision and developing the identities of the six restaurants. A huge benefit was that the same development team stuck with the project over the entire five-year period.

Once the team finalized the restaurant concepts, the brand identities drove menu development and decision making. Focusing on one restaurant per month, the group confirmed each restaurant identity, the logo, the concept and menu, the service experience, staff uniforms, dishware/packaging, and so on.

The number of menu items held in inventory decreased from 1,500 in the old dining facility to 350 in the new one.

At the same time, the executive chef and sous chef developed and tested menu items. The project team, staff members and student customers were treated to previews along the way.

During the last 24 months, construction, equipment specification and purchasing were all happening at the same time.

By the time the facility opened in August 2017, the team concept had paid dividends as everyone was on the same page with a shared vision. Staff members became involved along the way and many menu items went through prep tests and tastings prior to the opening.

The process definitely worked.