posted on: Thursday August 29, 2019
This past summer, multiple changes and innovations were made to the layout of Raymond Dining Hall, including an upgrade to the beverage and breakfast stations and the addition of what Stuart Gerhardt, general manager of Ray, calls a “soft lounge.”
One of the biggest renovations made to the dining hall is the addition of a lounge area toward the back corner of Ray. The lounge includes new couches, cushioned chairs, vinyl chairs, high top tables, and multiple outlets for charging devices.
“We wanted to expand beyond the traditional dining hall,” explained Gerhardt. “And make a comfort area where people can sit and hang out and relax.” With multiple outlets now accessible and comfortable seating arrangements, Gerhardt is hopeful that students will find the area helpful and use it frequently. He said that if enough students show interest in the new area, they will definitely consider adding more of these lounges throughout Ray.
Gerhardt, who has been the general manager of Ray for over eight years now, recognized the need for an update to many aspects of the dining hall. “The beverage stations,” he said, “were pretty old and beat up.” The new Coke Freestyle and Minute Maid machines are much more efficient and provide a better product for the students, explained Gerhardt.
Not only have these machines been replaced, but new water fountains and filtration units will be installed both at the beverage stations and at the main entrance to Ray.
Along with the beverages, other stations throughout the dining hall have also been moved to accommodate students and create a better flow. The breakfast station is now one long station that includes the usual bagels and bread, along with new conveyor toasters, cream cheese, jelly, and butter station, with cereal at the end. The goal, Gerhardt explained, is to help make things move more efficiently and smoothly for students and to reduce the lines and waiting time as much as possible.
The dessert table has also been moved toward the dish return in the hopes that students will be more inclined to take a quick treat before heading out the door.
Gerhardt also highlighted the replacement of all of the black plastic plates and bowls with nicer white porcelain dishes. He knows adding the nicer plates and bowls creates a risk of greater breakage, but believes the overall cost and experience outweighs this potential hazard.
Gerhardt also understands that renovating the stations is not the last thing that needs change at Ray. “We want to improve the aesthetics, look, flow, and efficiency,” Gerhardt said. “But that also means enhancing the food and enhancing the product.” After hiring a new chef this summer, Gerhardt is hopeful that Ray will continue to improve its food offerings and overall experience throughout the year and beyond.
Gerhardt also talked about how all of these changes are part of a bigger “master plan” for not only the dining hall, but PC’s entire campus. He mentioned how John Sweeney, vice president of business and finance, has been part of the whole process in renovating Ray and other parts of campus.
Most notably, returning students will notice the removal of the stairway that used to lead toward Ray. The new stairway, Gerhardt argued, not only leads directly to a path to the circle and creates a better flow of traffic for students, but also opens up the area. The stairway will be replaced with greenery, and new picnic tables will be added to the lawn area next to Ray.
Additional changes students can look forward to are the extension of Flo’s to Go’s hours, to 7:00 p.m. and Ray’s Sunday hours to 8:00 p.m. Gerhardt is also hoping to have a beginning of the year BBQ sometime in early September, as well as several other late-night food events.
While much has already changed in Ray over the past year or two, Gerhardt hopes this is only the beginning. He has several plans already in the works that he hopes will help enhance the experience of eating at Ray for the entire student body and PC community.