UD to spend $7M to upgrade dining at Kennedy Union

The University of Dayton plans to beef up its main dining hall with larger selections and top-flight amenities in an effort to attract students and meet demand.

The university announced this week that it will spend $7 million to renovate dining areas in the Kennedy Union. UD plans to create three “micro-restaurants” and a café-bakery “offering expanded food choices, longer hours, hot breakfasts and significantly increased seating.”

“For a long time, we’ve heard from our customers about ways we could make the dining experience better for them,” said Paula Chambers, UD’s assistant vice president for auxiliary services. “In designing the renovation, we kept in mind the many different ways our campus community uses the dining areas as well as the broad range of foods they’d like to be available.”

The project marks the final renovation outlined in UD’s 2008 master plan for dining services. The university previously renovated dining halls in Marycrest Hall and Virginia W. Kettering Residence Hall at a cost of about $8 million.

University officials say the Kennedy Union, which hasn’t been renovated in 25 years, serves more than 3,500 customers per day.

Chambers said the university plans to open an Au Bon Pain café-bakery with soups, hot breakfasts and sandwiches on the first floor of the student union. The school plans to retain the Marianist dining room exclusively for faculty and staff during lunchtime.

The university also will open “micro-restaurants” on the building’s ground floor. They will feature distinct offerings such as pizza or barbecue.

The Kennedy Union dining areas will close in November and December and will reopen in August 2017.

“We are committed to minimizing disruption to our customers while the construction is taking place,” Chambers said. “We can promise you it will be worth the wait.”

A final vote on the project will come during the board of trustees executive committee meeting later this month.

Chambers said she doesn’t know how many students consider dining services during their enrollment decision-making process, however, she knows it’s on students’ minds.

A 2013 study by Technomic — a Chicago-based food service consulting firm — found that around 1 in 5 students say they choose a college based on amenities. The firm also found that dining services are the top amenity cited.

Ultimately, industry experts say, the cost for dining service renovations and upgrades are passed on to students through fees or rising meal charges. A typical meal plan at the University of Dayton cost $4,740 for the 2014-15 school year, up 54 percent from a decade ago.

UD charges slightly less than Wittenberg University ($4,774) and Miami University ($5,650) and slightly more than Central State ($4,310), Wright State ($2,600) and the University of Cincinnati ($4,222).

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