This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Questions &Answers

Published: March 3, 2005

Mitch Green is executive director of Campus Dining & Shops, formerly the Faculty Student Association, Inc.

FSA has a new name—Campus Dining & Shops. Why the change?
In the view of the FSA board, the name change was seen as a clear business need. It is expected to significantly improve brand awareness and product recognition. While it has history at UB, the name "Faculty Student Association" did not function as a business name should. FSA clearly didn't portray the nature of our offerings. In fact, we regularly have received phone calls from people who thought we were everything from the campus judicial office to a faculty-staff social organization. The board felt that in order for us to better define the organization to the campus, we needed a clear and appropriate name that concisely conveyed what we provide and what our customers expected. Moreover, it was vital for us to have a name that conveyed both the "dining" and "retail" aspects of our business as we become more aggressive in both areas of business.

Some of the dining facilities have been upgraded lately. Tell me about them.
We're always striving for the perfect balance of comfort and turnover—friendly spaces to ensure that our customers have the most access to dining when they need it. Over the past year, we have upgraded a number of our facilities as part of our ongoing commitment to improving our operations. Last January, we completely renovated Governors dining hall, including a complete overhaul of the serving area, new furniture in the dining room and upgraded lighting in the dining room. This past summer, we installed new furniture in both Baldy Walkway and the second floor of Capen. Both of these areas have been home to mismatched furniture for years because they are unsecured areas and the tables and chairs tend to disappear. UB Facilities worked with us last spring to develop plans to install cluster seating in both areas that improved the areas visually, improved the comfort level for our customers and increased the capacity of both areas while still meeting building and fire codes. In the summer of 2003 and again during the past winter recess, we upgraded the Capen Café on the ground floor of Capen Hall to complement the major renovation of the Admissions area. Most recently, we replaced all the furniture in the Putnam's dining room in the Student Union. The furniture in Putnam's was the original furniture installed during the expansion of the Student Union in 1992 and was really beginning to show its age. In addition to replacing the furniture, we also commissioned a mural on the wall in the rear of the seating area and currently are working with the Student Union management staff to paint several other walls in the dining area to visually warm up the lobby. The final furniture upgrade that we completed during the winter recess was in the Center for Tomorrow, where we replaced the board room furniture and the chairs in the banquet facility. Again, this furniture was more than 15 years old.

Is there an effort under way to bring healthier items to the vending machines?
We have had a request in the past year from members of the Faculty Senate and the Student Association to provide some healthier snacks in the vending machines. Until about 18 months ago, finding healthier snacks for vending machines had been difficult. Beyond a few types of granola bars, the snack manufacturers had been relatively slow to produce healthier snacks. However, in the past 18 months—with urging from many public-school operators and a nudge from the federal government—we have seen manufacturers bring to market a considerable number of healthier snacks, including baked potato chips and other spicy snacks, low- or no-fat candies, reduced-carb and lower-calorie snacks. The manufacturers also have become smarter marketers by touting an item like Twizzlers licorice sticks as a no-fat snack. Of course, they don't mention the calorie count from the sugar in the product. Along with the snack vendors increasing their offerings, Pepsi has come out with a number of new low-calorie beverages, as well as no-calorie flavored and sparkling-water products.

How have you been dealing with the "low-carb" craze?
For some reason, we haven't seen a lot of demand for "low-carb" items. I think, in part, that we have a wide enough selection of foods for students living in the residence halls to choose from. On any given evening, students have a choice of three entrees, two vegetables and starches, pizza and pasta, vegetarian and vegan items, a wok bar or a "build your own" bar, a salad bar, several desserts and ice cream. For students during the day and for faculty and staff, we offer everything from pasta to chicken, to sushi and salads, to subs and sandwiches and burgers and fries. I think we have a fair number of options for people who wish to maintain any type of diet or eating lifestyle.

Tell me about the energy-conservation project you're working on with NYSERDA.
It started with NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) and now has actually become an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) study. The project began last year as our contract with Coke was expiring. In our request for proposal (RFP) from both Pepsi and Coke, we requested they provide the most "energy-efficient" beverage vending machines available. After an extensive evaluation process, we accepted Pepsi's proposal, which included making new "Energy Star"-rated vending machines provided by Pepsi's vendor, Dixie Narco, available to the campus. We actually have the first "Energy Star"-certified machines on a campus that were produced by Dixie Narco, so the EPA, which oversees the Energy Star program, was interested in testing the units in actual operation. Just last week, a testing consultant was on campus installing metering devices on about 20 beverage machines on the Spine. Metering will last about 30 days and we expect a report from the consultant sometime this summer.

What's on the horizon? What new projects are in the works?
There are two major projects in the works. The first project is the rehab of the Goodyear dining hall. This summer, UB will replace windows in the dining room and the HVAC system that handles both the kitchen and the dining room in Goodyear. The scope of the project includes lowering the ceiling in the dining room, so we are taking the opportunity to make some additional upgrades to the room. We plan to install new flooring, upgrade the furniture, repaint the dining room and make other aesthetic changes. We'll also install a new ceiling and lighting package in the serving area, as well as paint the serving area and kitchen. The other major project is the examination of the residence hall dining programs in Richmond and Red Jacket quads in the Ellicott Complex. We now have two almost identical kitchens, serving areas and dining rooms in the quads, both of which are more than 30 years old and in need of significant upgrades. So we're looking at the possibility of combining the two facilities to eliminate duplication while improving the dining experience for the residence hall students in Ellicott. A consultant has been engaged to begin a study to determine the feasibility of consolidating these two operations.

Where's your favorite spot to eat on campus?
Anywhere with a Campus Dining & Shops logo.

What question do you wish I had asked, and how would you have answered it?
That's easy: How did Pepsi come to be the new beverage provider for FSA and what did it take to make the transition to a new provider? Our contract with Coke was scheduled to expire this past September, so in October 2003 we engaged a consultant, The Cornyn Fasano Group, to help us develop a RFP to send to both major soft drink companies and to assist us in analyzing the responses. John Cornyn, one of the principals of the group, also spent time on campus meeting with a variety of different constituencies, including students and administrators, to see if there was a preference for certain brands or types of beverages. The RFP was issued in December 2003. A decision was made to have Pepsi become our exclusive beverage provider after interviews with both companies that included both students and administrators from the FSA board; a review of the products and programs that both companies offered and planned to bring to market in the near future; and a review of the financial programs. In addition to an exceptional product line that has resulted in an increase in volume, the Pepsi financial program will allow us to hold soft drink and water prices at their current level for at least another year and possibly longer. The interesting part of the story is the equipment transition. Starting in July with the assistance of our vending contractor, Aramark, Pepsi installed approximately 140 vending machines, 40 coolers and 50 fountain-beverage units across campus in just about 30 days. This was quite an undertaking and one that was accomplished without interrupting any of our services. It took the cooperation of three different manufacturers, as many as four different Pepsi installation crews working on campus at once, Aramark crews from Buffalo and Rochester, and my FSA team to make sure we could service the campus by the time classes started in late August. One day on North campus alone, I counted seven vehicles from Pepsi delivering and installing equipment, four vehicles from Coke removing equipment and three from Aramark setting up vending machines. Needless to say, it was as a very busy but very successful month for all of us.