Every year, Vanderbilt dining undergoes a number of changes, whether that is to the food offered, local partnerships or facilities. This year is no different, with additions ranging from new Taste of Nashville partners to expanded vegan and vegetarian options in Rand and Commons.
One of the big additions was the hiring of David ter Kuile as executive director after the position remained vacant for over a year. Ter Kuile previously served as the head of dining at Southern Methodist University and before that oversaw dining operations at High Point University. So far, he said the adjustment to Vanderbilt has been phenomenal.
“The culinary team that we have here is world class and the management team that we have is great,” ter Kuile said. “I’ve gotten to meet a lot of the supervisors and hourly employees and i’m looking forward to meeting everybody but it’s very impressive.”
According to Julie Crider, Communications Manager for campus dining, many of the changes this year come from student input. Recently, students have requested expanded vegan and vegetarian options. To meet these needs, Commons will now offer breakfast bowls to provide more vegan and vegetarian friendly breakfast entrees. Additionally, Orto, a new station focused on vegan and vegetarian options, will open in Rand.
“Orto, the new concept in Rand, was designed to meet the growing demand of vegan and vegetarian requests from our students,” ter Kuile said. “The recipes and menus were created such that all students will enjoy and appreciate the cuisine at this operation. On a side note, we offer vegan and vegetarian dishes in our operations across campus and designate these dishes on our website and screens with a VG, for vegan, or V, for vegetarian.”
Student feedback also lead to the decision to switch campus coffee providers from Caribou Coffee to Peet’s coffee.
“Satisfaction with Caribou had decreased over time,” ter Kuile said. “We had several vendors come on campus to provide samples to our coffee committee and students. Peet’s was selected because they will be able to provide the quality, volume, and service needed to meet our students’ expectations.”
Additionally, students will say goodbye to Last Drop Coffee Shop. Through a partnership with Nashville coffee shop Frothy Monkey, Last Drop is being rebranded as Local Java and will carry the same products as Frothy Monkey coffee shops, as well as some Vanderbilt-specific options.
“Local Java has been designed with the Frothy Monkey team in Nashville,” ter Kuile said. “Local Java’s coffee equipment, coffee products and service will be the same as any Frothy Monkey in Nashville, TN. The Local Java program will be enhanced with local pastries, food and smoothies created by our Vanderbilt Dining team. Local Java will be a Meal Plan location.”
While the other changes to dining will come into effect immediately, Local Java is not estimated to open until the last week of August, as the infrastructure and equipment are still undergoing remodeling. In the meantime, students will have the opportunity to sample Local Java offerings during staff trainings, which will be posted on the Vanderbilt Campus Dining social media.
Ro Tiki in Branscomb is also being replaced this year, with an expansion of the grab-and-go options, which will be available 24/7.
“A big buzzword that we hear from students is variety, so there’s going to be a lot of variety,” Crider said.
Variety also comes from the five new restaurants that have been added to Taste of Nashville: Rotier’s, Elliston Soda Shop, Urban Cookhouse, I Love Juice Bar and Bombay Palace.
Throughout the year, tweaks and changes will continue to be made across campus dining options as student interest and input lets dining know what works and what doesn’t.
“One thing that’s really struck me about the team here is the drive to constantly improve,” ter Kuile said. “It’s a continuous improvement cycle.”