Montana State University

In Spring 2012, our team was retained by Montana State University to create a five-year campus-wide dining services master plan for the University. MSU anticipated continued growth in enrollment over the next five years and asked our firm to complete a comprehensive review of its campus dining services in order to identify the current program’s strengths, challenges, and opportunities for the future, especially with the planned growth of both residential and commuter students.

PKC completed a full slate of master planning services for this project. We spent four days on campus in April 2012 to conduct in-depth qualitative market research including on-site focus groups and personal interviews with students, faculty and staff. The information gathered from these stakeholder interviews was used to create a customized web-based survey that was issued to a select group of campus community members. Using all of the qualitative and quantitative market research, PKC provided MSU with recommendations for all current and proposed dining facilities with regard to meal plans, location, menu variety and selection, ambiance, hours of operation, methods of service, and methods of payment. We also prepared a detailed financial analysis and business plan including five-year financial projections that illustrated the financial implications of our recommendations. In addition, MSU hired PKC to prepare a demand analysis and preliminary schematic to illustrate the space requirements for its three residential dining halls based on the University’s planned enrollment growth and its plans to house more students on campus.

As a result of our planning efforts, University Dining has realized an increase in meal plan sales including from commuter students. In addition, with the extended hours of operation, MSU is serving more than 1,200 meals during late night hours and customer satisfaction has skyrocketed.

Following the completion of the master planning process, PKC was hired to serve as the lead foodservice consultant for the renovation of Miller Dining Hall. Prior to the renovation, this dining hall was dated, inefficiently designed and was not considered an inviting space for students to gather and socialize. The PKC design studio provided a full slate of design services and the gorgeous new Miller Dining Hall offering Anytime Dining has been overwhelmingly received by the campus community. The students love it and meal plan participation has grown because students see the value in purchasing a meal plan to use here and for the social engagement opportunities this space now provides, not to mention a much wider variety of menu options including made-to-order selections. Finally, the campus is now using this facility as a recruitment & retention tool.

In fall 2018, Montana State University’s Culinary Services took the next step in the continuation of the transformation of the campus dining program with the opening of the innovative Rendezvous Dining Pavilion. The new $18.2 million facility was built to accommodate MSU’s enrollment growth and replaces two older facilities near the academic core of campus. Rendezvous features Anytime Dining and a variety of food stations including: De La Mesa, which specializes in Mexican cuisine and features a rotating tortilla grill; the 89’er Diner, which offers smash burgers and milkshakes; XO, a wok and pho station that features both traditional and regional foods of Asia and the Middle East; a European-style bakery café called One Eleven that offers espresso, pastries and crepes; Forge 406 that incorporates a smoker and rotisserie to prepare locally-sourced meats; Rosso, a pizza and build-your-own-pasta dish Italian station; a station called Etcetera featuring soups, salads and sandwiches; and Razz, where diners can get smoothies and fresh fruit.

The focus in this venue is on locally-sourced, made-from-scratch offerings. The state-of-the-art 30,000-square-foot dining facility features 830 seats including seating on a mezzanine and 100 outdoor seats overlooking the main campus. It also features a sports lounge and high-definition projector with a 20-foot screen for game days and special events. The dining venue is open to the entire campus community including residential and commuter students, faculty, staff and visitors.

The Rendezvous Dining Hall is the result of a collaborative effort between Porter Khouw Consulting (PKC), Mosaic Architects (Helena, MT) and the forward-thinking team at Montana State University.