Get the Most Out of Your New (or Refurbished!) Dining Facility

If there’s one thing that brings people together, it’s food. From individual dishes to beautiful dining halls, we’ve spent decades learning exactly what diners want in a dining experience. Chuck Melchiori, vice president and founding member of Creative Dining Services, has played an enormous role in that successful endeavor.

When developing a plan for a new or renovated dining facility, we’ve seen the importance of leaning into innovation while honoring decades of hands-on experience. Chuck’s insights and industry knowledge have led to the success of many client projects. All the while, he and our other team members have cultivated a deep understanding of diner expectations.

In honor of Chuck’s retirement after 33 years of dedicated service, we’d like to share some of what he’s learned. Whether you’re looking to upgrade your current dining facility or build a new one from scratch, here are some of his key insights into how to get the most out of your project.

Hospitality is Everywhere

Chuck’s number one piece of advice: Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you don’t need dining services right now that you’ll never need them. Any organization with a gathering space could, and likely will, require dining services in some capacity. Similar to other long-term goals, it’s best to start planning for dining service needs early, before it becomes a pain-point in your organization.

“The biggest pitfall we try to help our clients avoid is the idea that their facility is never going to have a need for food or hospitality services,” Chuck said. “Where there are facility tours, offices, meeting rooms, or gathering spaces, there will always be a need for food.”

A few examples of on-site dining needs could include:

  • Micro markets offering coffee or a beverage/snack to tour groups
  • Breakfast, lunch, snacks, and coffee for company employees
  • Catering lunch, breakfast, or snacks to meeting spaces for longer meetings
  • Hosting large group events in gathering spaces requiring some type of food or refreshment

Accommodating for on-site dining services in building renovations or new construction projects will allow your design to meet the needs of diners well into the future.

Ask the Right Questions

Part of strategically approaching a dining facility construction project is getting to the root of what’s needed. Chuck recommends always asking a few questions:

  • What is the desired outcome of the organization?
  • What is the desire of the diner?
  • What do dining service employees need to successfully meet the guest experience expectations?
  • What is your vision for what the dining experience will look like?

Asking those questions first sets the rest of the project up for success. You may have the answers for the organization questions, but what about the desire of the diner? Chuck suggests surveys and focus groups as the initial steps to understanding diner needs and creating successful dining facility projects.

Partner With the Experts

After over three decades of refining his understanding of dining and the hospitality industry, Chuck developed a strategic roadmap for the successful construction of a new dining facility. Organizations shouldn’t take the decision to build or renovate a facility lightly, there needs to be a strategy from the very beginning.

“There’s a lot of best practices in a renovation project,” Chuck said. “Whoever you’re using for a dining partner, you’ve got to bring them in very early. They should be part of the focus groups, they should be part of the survey process. They’re going to be your owner’s agent to help you navigate the pitfalls…to spend your money wisely.”

Seek to Understand the “Why”

If you’re aware that your dining facility is showing its age, you may see a renovation as an obvious next step. But to do it right, you need to understand the “why” behind the decision. Giving your facility a “face-lift” will only be successful long-term if it addresses the deeper need behind the seemingly-superficial changes.

Your “why” might be something like:

  • “We need a facility with an allergen-free preparation space because more diners have specific dietary needs that we can’t accommodate in our current facility.
  • “We want to provide our guests with a more restaurant-like dining experience because diners are choosing outside restaurants instead of our cafeteria.
  • “We’re adding a micro market with wholesome grab-and-go meal options because our diners want healthy, convenient options throughout the day.

Whatever your “why” is will lead you to understand what changes you truly need. By understanding the reason behind updating or building a new dining facility, you’re more likely to have a successful endeavor.

If you’re looking for a team of experts for your current or upcoming dining facility project, we’d love to hear about it. Reach out to us and we’ll schedule a time to chat!

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