Students returning to campus this month will see some big changes. Among them, the re-opening of Frazer Hall, a new admissions building about to open, and significant progress on the new academic building behind French.

But the change with perhaps the most impact will be a re-energized D-Hall, with new food options, a focus on health, and a new look coming soon.

Those changes have been ushered in over the summer by Joy Presley, the new general manager, and Mitch Rodhe, new dining director, both food service veterans who recently brought fresh eyes to the Longwood dining experience. We sat down with Joy and Mitch to talk about what the Longwood community can expect when they walk into D-Hall for the first time this semester.

Let’s start with your experience in the food service industry. What has been your path to Longwood?

Mitch Rodhe: My path started in food service as I moved up from dishwasher to manager of a restaurant in Florida. From there I joined the catering staff at Florida State, starting my career in higher education. I then went on to James Madison University as the catering manager, followed by a move as catering director at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and then general manager, where I have spent the last 13 years.

Joy Presley: Along our military family journey, I have worked 20+ years in hotels and resorts and have catered to everyone from presidential candidates to the director of the CIA. I began my Aramark career six years ago at Methodist University with my latest assignment being general manager. When the opportunity of joining the Longwood family was presented, I jumped at the chance of becoming part of this very special team!

One of the most exciting changes will be the Restaurant Rotation. Can you tell me how you developed this idea?

Presley: Restaurant Rotation features proprietary branded concepts, offering on-trend menus to deliver a one-of-a-kind pop-up culinary experience in our dining facility. This will help to increase menu variety and our guests experience in D-Hall. We are rolling it out to keep the D-Hall menu revolving and expanding to ensure we are bringing our guests a myriad of different food cultures to explore, as well as delight their culinary appetites.

What part did feedback play in your thinking about re-energizing D-Hall?

Rodhe: As we heard from our guests, we had opportunity to increase our variety, freshness, healthy offerings and customizable menus. We took this input and created a plan to ensure we hit all of these marks in our D-Hall refresh. Restaurant Rotation will drive variety, while the salad bar enhancements hit hard on improving our freshness and healthy options. Also, True Balance will incorporate all aspects of the feedback with the added bonus of giving our guests with food sensitivities a comfortable place to dine. With made-to-order options expanding at the Pasta Station, rebranded as “Tavolino,” plus the action station at True Balance, our guests will be able to walk away with a different item daily as they control the toppings added to their dish.

Let’s get fishy. What are the details on the new Bento Sushi bar next to Greens to Go?  

Rodhe: Bento Sushi is North America’s second largest sushi brand providing the highest quality packaged sushi and ready to heat/made to order hot Asian food. With more than 800 locations, in many different business channels, we decided on “bento SUSHI” as they have the highest quality products. We are excited for the Lancer Community to try their options that are made fresh daily. These quality options include a variety of sushi with and without raw ingredients, Donburi which is made to order exemplifying their quality and freshness, as well as Poke Bowls, all giving you fresh options daily.

One thing we’ve heard from students is they want more healthy options, particularly allergen- and gluten-free fare. How have you incorporated those needs?

Rodhe: The True Balance program is designed to accommodate students with food allergies and help alleviate their concerns as they make meal selections in our residential dining room.

The program is designed as a comprehensive solution for running an “Allergen Solutions” station, and is for customers who need to avoid one or more of the top eight allergens or dine with restrictions with delicious meals made for your specific needs. Our chefs prepare specialized options from ingredients without the most common food allergens.

Personally, I love the pasta station, but I hear there are changes coming. What’s new, and what’s going to stay the same (crossing my fingers that you’re keeping the create-your-own option)?

Presley: Not to worry, we realize that our guests enjoyed the pasta station, we are merely enhancing the beloved station. We are adding a specialty, premade pasta to the station, as well as adding premium topping choices and garlic bread!

There are rumors that the look of D-Hall will change as well.

You will definitely notice a small face-lift to D-Hall this summer as we are looking to make larger renovations and changes in the future.  Beyond the physical changes of the space of D-Hall, you will notice a marketable change in our customer service delivery, as we completed mandatory service excellence training this summer.  We brought in an expert in the field to refocus our attention back to our guests and ensure we deliver on our service promises to all of our guests and team.

For faculty and staff, will Aramark catering stay the same?

 Yes, our catering team will remain in place, but with a new name and some changes that will benefit those we serve. We made menu enhancements to our catering program as well as created a new budget friendly, student catering guide. In addition, there will be minor policy changes, but as a whole we are largely keeping our catering program intact as we strive to continue to deliver exceptional events and experiences.

Will there be any immediate changes to Aramark-managed restaurants like Chick-fil-A, Moe’s or any of the Upchurch options?

At this moment, there will not be any noticeable major changes to our retail brands, though some fine tuning of our delivery of service excellence to our guests will be apparent.

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