Dining Services brings Mongolian grill and other choices to “new” Rock.
The groans that have accompanied patrons’ entrance to the Rock Café for so many years turned to stunned silence as members of the Ferris community got their first look and taste of the finished project.
Since March the Rock Café has been closed for renovation. In that five month time a transformation has changed a lot more than just how the facility looks. Lori Helmer, director of dining services emphasized that this wasn’t just a place for people to eat, but rather a place for people to meet.
“We really strived to make this a gathering place with a warm comfortable ambiance,” said Helmer. And Helmer isn’t just talking about the inside. The outdoor dining patio has rails that were designed to be removed so that performances could be made and a natural bowl amphitheatre in the green space directly across could become a type of hub for entertainment, or as Helmer calls it, “eatertainment”.
The carefully articulated designs by STV architects of Douglas, Penn. and construction by Rockford Construction company of Grand Rapids, Mich. were developed with input from students after years of surveys, test groups, and feedback both positive and negative about their on campus dining experience. The result is what students and non-students alike have enjoyed as the Rock had a soft opening from Aug. 17 through the 21. Facebook statuses changed to reflect the overall appreciation including Senior in the Computer Information Systems program Adam Fortman’s to “The Rock=Delectable”. His co-worker at the Technology Assistance Center (TAC) and sophomore in the Informational Security and Intelligence program Matt Engels had a similar experience, though he stated he was slightly overwhelmed.
“There’s just so much stuff to choose from. I don’t know where to go or what to eat first. It’s awesome,” said Engels. Both Fortman and Engels visited the Rock as part of free lunch special by invitation to various areas of the campus.
While there may be no such thing as a free lunch, the $7.3 million project was completed on budget with $1.5 million coming from the maintenance reserve fund and the other $5.8 million from bonds issued for the project.
Those bonds aren’t the only investment related to this project. Around 200 students are expected to be employed at the Rock. The non-student employees who managed the various stations including the Mongo (short for Mongolian) grill have really taken ownership of the stations and like what they’re doing, said Helmer. Mike Langan, has transitioned from managing Mascar grill to the Rock and has seen the change happen first hand. “We’ve always had great people making and serving everything, we’ve just given them a better tool to utilize,” said Langan.
New facilities, menus, staffs and attitudes are expected to make the difference in the dining experience, but the next few weeks will truly test the Rock’s capacity to serve the student body as the campus is resurrected from the summer and the “new” Rock Café returns to the simple title of “The Rock” as it was named by students decades ago.