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Mercyhurst announces $3 million dining hall project

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The day after graduation at Mercyhurst University, Monday, May 23, renovations will commence at one of the most popular venues on the Erie campus, one that goes to the very heart, soul and stomach of the student experience – the cafeteria.

Thanks to a combination of Mercyhurst capital funds and a $2 million contribution from its food service partner, Parkhurst Dining, an estimated $3 million overhaul is planned for Egan Dining Hall. The amount includes not only renovations, but new food service equipment and all new furnishings. The announcement was made today by Mercyhurst University President Michael Victor and Jeff Broadhurst, president and CEO of Eat'n Park Hospitality Group, parent company of Parkhurst Dining.

When students return to the Mercyhurst campus in the fall, they’ll find an inviting, modern atmosphere with easily accessible food stations, more eclectic menu items, flex-style seating, enhanced technology, and group gathering sites – all in a timeless environment spun of neutrals and pops of color to make it fresh and fun. 

As Dean Schoenfeldt, Parkhurst general manager at Mercyhurst, says, “This isn’t your high school’s cafeteria!” Instead, the college community will enjoy a streamlined dining oasis.

In the past decade, American eating habits have changed significantly, and so has the college dining experience. For years, Mercyhurst and Parkhurst have emphasized innovation in food sourcing, food safety, waste reduction and other sustainable practices in cafeteria operations. In spite of such transformative changes, including specialized food choices and a variety of dining concepts, the design of Egan Dining Hall has remained untouched for at least three decades.

“We are enormously grateful to Parkhurst for working with us to heighten the dining experience for our college community, particularly our students,” Victor said. “This is a perfect example of the power of cultivating relationships. Our beautiful campus has always had that certain WOW factor, and now our dining hall will, too.”  

The renovations go beyond aesthetics. Project architect Shelane Buehler of Erie said the changes will make ingress and egress more accessible, scatter food stations to enhance speed and efficiency, and provide seating that accommodates the gamut of diners, from the individual student who wants to sit at a high-top and study, to the department that wants to have lunch all together. What’s more, the caf will be totally plugged in, from areas equipped with power-and-data backsplashes to Wi-Fi to high-def televisions.

The food stations, already fan favorites, will remain the same, but Parkhurst will ratchet up the fare with more variety, healthier options and interesting visual presentations: The Spoon & Fork, main entrée buffet line; The Salad Bar; The Oven, featuring fresh pizza, calzones, mac and cheese and chili; Bravo, action cooking station that will feature more entrée-based small plates; and The Deli, a sandwich station with the addition of a new panini press that can deliver in 45 seconds what used to take two minutes.

People, and by extension college students, are more conscientious about what they eat. One of the features of the new caf will be an allergen-free station devoted to preparing foods, such as gluten-free products, for students with allergies.

“Parkhurst is proud to be a partner of Mercyhurst University and have the ability to provide this contract investment to enhance the overall facility for years to come,” said Broadhurst.

The remodel of Egan Dining Hall marks Victor’s first major physical plant renovation since he took office nine months ago. Earlier this year, his fundraising initiatives resulted in upgrades to the Mercyhurst Ice Center, home to Erie’s only D-1 college hockey program.