Foodservice Equipment Reports

UNIT DESIGN: Yale’s Innovation: Separate Yet Shared

When Yale University, New Haven, Conn., began looking at residential dining renovations at the Ezra Stiles and Samuel Morse Colleges, planners realized that in order to really “wow” students, they would have to veer away from tradition and into new territory.

The tried-and-true approach would have been a straight makeover: new equipment and furnishings in roughly the same configuration as before. Except, the end result would have been a repeat of two side-by-side cafeteria-style serveries (think steam table lines) and a too-large, behind-scenes support kitchen. And bored customers.

The new design had to respect Yale tradition, which revolves around the uniqueness of each of its 12 residential colleges. It also had to leverage the benefits of shared production and service as much as possible.

“Yale would never compromise on anything that would affect the individuality of the Stiles and Morse residential dining facilities,” says Rafi Taherian, who came to Yale as executive dining services director from Stanford University nearly five years ago. “And yet if we didn’t succeed in sharing platforms, we would have had significantly fewer offerings for our students. We had to figure out how to give MORE to students, spend less and still preserve what we have.”

The solution featured the best of both worlds: shared AND separate. The new Stiles/Morse servery, opened in fall 2011 after two years’ construction and about two years in planning, serves students an array of center-of-plate items with the support of an open kitchen. “Stilesians” and “Morsels” (as residents are called) then head off to their own separate serveries to pick up salads, soups, breakfast items and beverages, and enjoy their meals in twin dining areas.

The seating areas for each College lie just next to the twin serveries. When meals are finished, students head to the scullery with their plates (no trays) and place dishes on an accumulator, which carries them out of sight into the dishroom.

The Team

In the 1990s, Yale embarked in a 12-year project to renovate its residential infrastructure. Stiles and Morse, two residential Colleges located under the roof of one extremely long building, were the final stage. The Stiles/Morse dining operation, in addition to feeding the 700 residents, would also need the capacity to feed students from other colleges at the Yale sports facility just across the street.

The Yale team, which included Taherian, Asset Renewal/Planned Projects Manager Daniel Flynn, Project Manager Danielle Gunther-Gawlak and University Planner Laura Cruikshank, in collaboration with consulting firm Ricca Newmark, faced a tall order: to preserve each college’s unique dining experience. At the same time, they knew they would have to develop a completely new operational model.

“We had to look at everything—foodservice, receiving, scullery, dining and so on. And we knew we had to add stations for pizza, Asian food, comfort food—none of which which were there previously,” Taherian says.

“The old mentality used to be, the bigger the kitchen, the better the food,” Taherian adds. “But as we know, that’s no longer true. By making kitchens more ergonomic and compact, not only are your chefs going to be more efficient, you’ll also be able to return space to the customers.”

Equipping Stiles/Morse

Stiles/Morse’s display cooking arena is small—set in 1,150 sq. ft. with only three stations—but flexible. Its stops include a rotating grill, a wok area and a hearth oven pizza station. All are connected visually by a curving Caesarstone counter whose insets hold bowls and plates. Behind scenes is a 650-sq.-ft. support kitchen.

“When we chose equipment, we wanted high functionality and the ability to cover all dayparts,” Flynn says. “We’re able to bake quiches in the pizza oven or roast potatoes and other items there. We use the woks for noodle bowls, pastas and stir-fries. We use the rotating grill for omelets and pancakes in the morning and proteins at night,” Flynn says. “This servery prepares 21 meal services a week, with at least 1,200 covers per day. No area could be dormant.”

As an added benefit, the shift to display cooking reduced the FTE headcount by six. “We used to have the grill in the back, and had to have two people dedicated solely to running grilled items out to both serveries,” Flynn says. Design overhauls elsewhere in the kitchen—such as receiving, which now has a proper loading dock with the space to maneuver full pallets of food rather than breaking them down first—have also improved labor savings.

Servery Tour

The first stop in the servery is the grill station, which stars a custom-made, 48”-wide rotating griddle. Above it, an eye-catching circular hood with LED lights inset around the rim spotlights cooking action below.

“We spent a lot of time spec’cing the griddle station,” Flynn says. “We needed a large cooking surface but lacked linear space. The round shape provides a narrow footprint, and the fact that it rotates allows cooks to reach all areas. And best of all, it’s entertaining to watch.”

The merry-go-round griddle’s “side-kick” on the line is a refrigerated deli-style display case holding pre-prepped ingredients and a display of the day’s main offering. The curved glass front can be tilted up high, allowing it to double as a self-serve condiment bar for certain meals.

Behind the griddle, a work-top freezer on one wall and a pair of fryers next to the woks along the main wall round out  station support.

The Asian station sits center-stage, literally and figuratively. Food coming off a pair of woks goes straight into a bank of hot food wells along the front. Ingredients are prepped and held in a sandwich prep table to the left of the woks. A rolling cart holding the various Asian sauces and spices provides handy access during the heat of meal  service, then can be wheeled out of the way to save space.

Chef Christopher Brothers, who runs the wok area, is the star here. “He comes up with a new lunch-time noodle bowl daily, and even has his own Facebook fan page,” Flynn says. Chef Chris and his team serve up to 175 individually assembled bowls daily.

A stone-hearth oven at the third station is the final show-stopper of the Stiles/Morse shared servery. The massive piece of equipment, which required additional structural support and widening of entrances before its installation, is now a student favorite.

The oven is supported by a prep table to its left, where the morning crew can “come in and start preparing pizza dough and par-baking shells before the lunch rush,” Flynn says.

Pizza-by-the-slice and other oven-baked entrees are displayed on a heated surface. A hot/cold well serves as a support unit, holding sides, salads or sauces to accompany the main dish. “The oven station offers a lot of flexibility,” Flynn says.

Behind Scenes

Behind the wall holding woks and fryers lies the rest of the kitchen and the equipment supporting the two individual serveries. “This is where soups, sauces, roasted meats, pastas, stews and so on all come from,” Flynn says, gesturing at the cookline. “When we’re open for business, the chef will monitor what’s needed in various areas and cook accordingly. Runners bring food out to the serveries as it’s prepared.”

On one side are a convection steamer, two convection ovens, a refrigerated roll-in cabinet and a cook-hold cabinet. Opposite that are worktables holding a food slicer, prep sinks, and then a cooking area with a tilting kettle, tilting braising pan and a four-burner range. (The range is a recent addition, added over the winter break when the chef realized he need the ability to heat smaller quantities of food than the 40-gal. kettle had permitted.)

Walk-in coolers anchor one side of the mini-kitchen, while space for dry storage anchors the opposite side.

Individual Serveries

Retaining the unique dining experience for Morse and Stiles residents was a key factor in the dining area’s separate-but-shared design. The twin serveries—separated by a wall, with a mirror-image equipment layout on either side, have proven a hit with students.

The long, narrow 960-sq.-ft. spaces are equipped along the shared wall with cereal and milk dispensers, hot/cold food pans, a hand sink, a grab-and-go sandwich area and a beverage station. Free-standing stations hold salads and soups, desserts and ice cream. Sliding “garage door”-type doors allow each servery to be closed off from its seating area during non-meal-service times.

The individuality of each college is conveyed by the décor. The Morse College servery wall features a “dot-dash-dot” mural of Morse code done in oranges and yellows, in honor of the College’s namesake, Samuel Morse. And the Stiles College servery wall sports a mural of writings from the notebook of explorer and inventor Ezra Stiles.

Scullery Time-Saver

The scullery remains a shared space for the two Colleges, but its efficiency has vastly increased thanks to the introduction of an accumulator unit, recirculating pre-rinse area and a rack-style warewasher.

The accumulator—a slowly moving set of wire platforms upon which students place soiled dishes—allows dishroom workers to sort at a steady pace. All waste is scraped into a barrel for later composting.

“We didn’t want anyone to have to sort, so we removed all noncompostable items from dining halls, campus-wide,” Flynn says. “We use wooden stirrers for coffee, compostable straws, and we serve crackers and the various condiments in bulk style.” Last year Yale sent some 500 tons of pre- and post-consumer waste to be composted.

A scrap collector unit uses recirculating water to pre-rinse dishes and trap remaining food particles. The unit uses only 2 gals./water per minute, compared to the 9 gals./minute required by the disposal unit previously in place.

Switching to a rack-style warewasher instead of the previous flight-type unit also helped ease pressure during peak times, as “employees are no longer forced to keep up with unloading the machine,” Flynn says. “We included a larger drying area, so racks of clean dishes can be placed there to wait for employees. The other benefit of the rack machine is that once the last rack emerges, the unit instantly turns itself off, saving energy.”

Looking Ahead

Design innovations implemented at Morse and Stiles Colleges are already influencing future Yale dining projects.

“We’ve found that the facilities with the highest customer satisfaction are the ones where cooks are out front, able to interact with customers,” Flynn says.

Yale’s Dining Services team is already full tilt into its next ventures. One project involves relocating and renovating an 18,000-sq.-ft. catering/bakery commissary. Yale is also in the middle of designing two new residential Colleges, which will each be home to their own dining facilities. Slated to open in ’15, the pair will be “cutting edge and magnificent,” says Taherian, who at press time was headed to Singapore to consult on a new dining installation at a Yale partner school in Asia.


MENU/SEGMENT: College/University


MIRRORED SERVERIES: 960 sq. ft. each


MEALS/DAY: 1,200



Yale: Daniel Flynn, asset renewal, planned projects manager; Danielle Gunther-Gawlak, project manager; Laura Cruikshank, university planning, construction and renovation director; Rafi Taherian, executive dining services director

Foodservice Consultant : Ricca Newmark, Denver

Equipment Supplier: TriMark, So. Attleboro, Mass.

Architectural Design: Kieran Timberlake, Philadelphia

Construction: Turner Construction Co., New York

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