Leutner Commons named best college dining concept in U.S.

Fresh on the heels of being named the best medium-sized residential dining concept in the National Association of College and University Food Services’ (NACUFS) Loyal E. Horton Dining Awards, Leutner Commons earned the grand prize for all residential dining concepts, beating out University of Michigan and Concordia College for the top spot.

Case Western Reserve University and its foodservice provider, Bon Appétit Management Co., took home the honor from the awards luncheon in Dallas in July.

Bon Appétit and CWRU applied for the NACUFS Loyal E. Horton Dining Awards last winter in the medium school category of residential dining concepts; school sizes are based on revenue generated and the number of students enrolled, explained Jim O’Brien, Bon Appétit’s resident district manager.

Winners of the category awards were announced in May, with University of Michigan (large), Case Western Reserve (medium) and Concordia College (small) taking home gold; in July, they named CWRU the overall grand prize winner.

The judges’ criteria included menu concepts, merchandising and presentation, marketing, nutrition and wellness programs, as well as sustainability goals and an overall “wow” factor. Leutner Commons scored highest in the nutrition and wellness category and also earned high marks in merchandising and presentation, said Beth Kretschmar, marketing manager for Bon Appétit.

Last year, Leutner Commons underwent a $7 million renovation, which has invoked a new atmosphere in the dining concept and likely played a role in the judging. “There’s much more ambience now,” said Dick Jamieson, vice president of campus services. “The food has always been good, but this provided a much better platform for the chefs to show off their culinary skills.”

But it was the menu and its nutritional aspects that clearly impressed the judges. Bon Appétit’s concept at Leutner Commons is focused on a healthy, local dining approach, with the management company’s “Farm to Fork” program serving fresh, sustainable fare.

Dishes are made from scratch using fresh, authentic ingredients, and local and seasonal products are used whenever possible—including out of season. Local vegetables are harvested and then flash-frozen and preserved at the peak of their freshness; they can then be used throughout the year, O’Brien explained.

Bon Appétit at Case Western Reserve has one of the management company’s highest rates of local food purchasing in the country, spending $1 to $1.5 million each year on products in the Cleveland area, O’Brien said.

Additionally, Bon Appétit is looking to meet students’ individual nutritional needs. Last year, they launched Just Ask, in which students are encourage to “just ask” for anything they desire in the dining halls.

“That includes cooking for them individually, which we do for 12 to 15 students a night with allergies, cooking gluten-free items, or even having them come over to borrow an egg or a cup of sugar,” O’Brien said. “We want to be their local restaurant, where everybody knows their name. That’s really what we’re all about.”

For more information on Bon Appétit at Case Western Reserve University, visit www.cafebonappetit.com/case.