Weisenefluh and Boozel Dining Center have been recognized as two of the best college dining halls in America by Food Management Magazines in their article, “Best College Dining Halls? We’ll Show You Best College Dining Halls.”
The recognition came as a surprise to most of the AVI staff members, especially Joe Balaban, Resident Director, and Lisa Rodgers, Director of Operations.
“That’s a huge honor when you’re up against colleges like Stanford and some of the other schools that were mentioned. They have some excellent dining programs. I’m not saying that we don’t because we have excellent dining programs as well,” Balaban said.
“We felt elated. It’s kind of hard to put into words. I think it was surprising to me because I didn’t know it was coming,” Rodgers said.
Boozel and Weisenfluh both went under renovations five years ago. According to Food Management Magazine, the two dining halls received $16 million in upgrades. The upgrades were so costly because of the complete day and night transformations that had taken place, Balaban said.
“Both Wiesenfluh and Boozel were completely gutted. The buildings that you see today aren’t even remotely close to what they were when they were renovated. Weisenfluh was the old comfortable dining hall that everyone felt comfortable going to and Boozel was a complete transformation,” Balaban said. ” It’s hard to even describe Boozel without looking at before and after pictures. Both of these transformations were completely night and day. Weisenfluh was a dining hall and it’s completely retail now with a whole different vibe. It truly is just one of those things were you need to see before and after photos.“
Several student are interviewed to be a team member of either Boozel or Weisenfluh every year. Between both dining halls, AVI currently has 87 full time union team members working at Slippery Rock. AVI also employs around 325 students each semester. Joe explained that this recognition should really go to the students because of all their hard work.
“Without the students, these dining halls wouldn’t be what they are today. They are our work force. They are a huge part of what we do on campus,” Balaban said.
Rodgers also commented that the students should be the most proud of this recognition for all the work that they do.
Inside both Boozel and Weisenfluh are suggestion boxes that students write to tell AVI what they would like to see improvement in or what foods they would like to see more of.
“We meet with the Association of Resident Hall students and the house council in the fall and spring each year to get an opinion of what they would like to see. What we do is driven by what the students tell us they want,” Balaban said. “We honestly make an effort to meet with the students because when it all comes down to it, it’s all about the students.”
According to Rodgers, AVI prides itself in offering different variety of foods that the students on campus like.
“We try to give a different variety of foods each month at Boozel so that students don’t get bored. We always have the salad, wrap and dessert bar. We also always keep some breakfast foods out as well,” Rodgers said. “We try to change it up in the hot food area. We also try to feature foods from different countries so that students can also get a worldly vibe. We really try to be diverse and give the students what they want. We want to be different.”
Future plans for both Boozel and Weisenfluh are still in the works, but one thing that Balaban promises is that the uniqueness of both dining halls won’t change.
“Our future plans always change. We’re just now getting ready to start talking about spring and what we can do different this spring. We try to make changes in retail locations, especially in Weisenfluh. We like to try out different food venues to see what the students like,” Balaban said. “We like to be different and unique, so for now, we’re just trying to find ways to distance ourselves from our competition in a way that most people wouldn’t expect.”