Dining services to renovate Penland for fall 2014

By Emily Ballard

Students can expect huge changes in campus dining by the start of the fall semester.

Penland Food Court will undergo a full-scale renovation, said Brett Perlowski, the director of dining services at Baylor. The interior will be completely gutted and 14,000 square-foot will be added to the exterior of the building for the new dining area, and dining at Penland will be completely different, he said.

The dining area will be kitchenless. Instead of a main kitchen, there will be a full wok set up, smoker for meats, a fresh tortilla machine and a bakery. Only scratch dough will be used for pizzas, Perlowski said.

“You’ll see all of it happening,” he said, referring to students being able to watch the food preparation and cooking processes because of the kitchenless set-up.

Students will be allowed to request special meals prepared for them by a chef in the new Penland dining area, Perlowski said. Dining services is also in the process of hiring a registered dietician who will be on staff at the new dining facility.

“We’re not cutting corners on the facility,” Perlowski said. “It will be the crown jewel of campus dining.”

Perlowski said that the new facility will have 1,100 seats, which is almost double the number of seats at East Village Dining Commons. More space indoors and outdoors will be reserved for students dining than the space offered at East Village Dining Commons, he said.

“It will have a more leisurely feel to it,” he said. “It’s going to be quite pretty, to be honest with you.”

To accommodate students with a preference for a gluten-free diet, the new Penland dining area will have an area with vegan and gluten-free foods, Perlowski said.

Jessica Woods, unit marketing manager for dining services, said the new dining area will offer gluten-free entrees every day. Right now, only Brooks Residential College offers a refrigerator full of gluten-free items, and the other campus dining halls offer gluten-free items every now and then, she said.

A residential convenience store will also be built next to the Penland dining area. Perlowski said one of the goals of Baylor dining services is to provide students with amenities and snacks so that they do not have to go off campus.

Since the opening of East Village Dining Commons this past August, attendance at the other dining halls has shifted. Of the five resident dining halls on Baylor’s campus, East Village feeds the most students on a regular basis, Perlowski said.

“East Village picks up about 23 percent,” he said. “Penland and Collins have had the largest dip.”

These dynamics might shift next fall, however, after Penland Food Court receives the makeover.

Although Perlowski said he is pleased with the success of East Village Dining Commons, the new Penland dining area is the largest project with the most dramatic changes he has worked on in his 12 years in Baylor dining services.

“I think people will be shocked by what this facility can do,” he said. “It’s going to be cool.”

He also said students can look forward to additional changes in campus dining around campus, including a full-service Starbucks in the atrium of the Baylor Sciences Building this coming August.

A number of changes are also scheduled to occur in the Bill Daniel Student Center next fall. The Quizno’s will be converted into Freshii, an eco-friendly food chain that uses “fresh, whole, simple and honest” ingredients, according to the company’s website. The new Freshii will offer students the ability to choose between more than 70 ingredients to include in a salad, wrap, burrito, brown rice bowl or soup, the website said. They also serve breakfast and fat-free frozen yogurt.

The small Chick-fil-A station in the Student Union Building will also be expanded because of students’ demand for Chick-fil-A, Perlowski said. “It is the most popular brand on campus,” he said.