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Campus News / News

Rockford University’s Dining Hall gets renovated just in time for spring semester

01/18/2023 4:05 pm

By Sara Myers | January 18, 2023

This past Tuesday, January 17, was the start of the spring 2023 semester and a chance for students and staff to once again eat at the new and improved Burpee Dining Hall. Over winter break, the food service team at Fresh Ideas worked to implement phase one of the new and enhanced dining experience. 

Phase one included a new pizza, salad and deli station in the dining room; a new dessert and breakfast station; new flooring in the dining room; and new seating and tables. 

“(The renovation) took three and a half weeks,” said Chad Nawrocki, director of dining services at Rockford University. “We got rid of all the furniture and all the flooring. It was a big, wide open space and we got rid of every cabinet and countertop that was in here. It was down to just the walls.”

The Fresh Ideas team was hard at work repainting the walls and replacing all the flags in the hall with plaques instead to give the hall a sleeker look over winter break. The plaques, which represent all the countries students are from on campus, shows how far the country is from campus, its population and also includes the country’s flag. 

The brand new center station in the middle of the hall includes a pizza station, hot pasta station, salad bar, build your own panini station, sub sandwich station and a soup station.

Nawrocki also noted that the company has brought in new technology which includes QR codes. Over at the Epic Eats station, students can scan the QR code on the station’s plaque and it will launch the station menu on your phone and you can order their meal directly from your phone. Students can type in their email address and they will be emailed once their order is ready. 

The hall also has a charging station with USB ports so students or staff can charge any device while eating. The hall also has seating for about 190 students, Nawrocki said.

RU students are enjoying the change for the new semester. A group of freshmen including Lorena Perez, Jazmyne Mastin and Katie Parades said they all enjoy the new look of the hall and the new flooring. Perez said she especially enjoyed the mac and cheese this Tuesday.

Senior Jessie Rathbum said she enjoyed the new layout and the multiple meal options the hall has, adding that she is a vegetarian and has found enough options for herself. Rathbum also said she liked the new online app.

Junior Piper Burney said she has liked what she’s seen so far from the new chef at Fresh Ideas who started this semester. Burney adds that she’s a picky eater, so it can be hard for her to find something she really enjoys. 

Junior Robbie Stradder agrees that the new look of the dining hall is enjoyable and especially likes that they replaced the country flags with plaques since the flags took up a lot of space before. 

Fresh Ideas currently has five student workers on staff, who Nawrocki is still working on assigning to different stations. All of his student workers are international students. He encourages people to reach out and start with the paperwork process if they’re interested in working in campus food service. 

Fresh Ideas took over from food service company Sodexo last year in July 2022. Nawrocki said they were in a “bidding war” with other food service companies for the gig, but received an excellent review from Judson University President Dr. Gene Crume, who is friends with former president Dr. Eric Fulcomer.

“(Dr. Crume) said, if you don’t hire Fresh Ideas, that would be a mistake,” Nawrocki said. “The programs they run are phenomenal. Everything we cook from the ground up is fresh.”

Fresh Ideas currently does food service for five universities in Illinois and around ten in Missouri, he said.

Phase two of the dining hall renovation will be completed this August 2023 and will start this summer break. The phase updates include a new entrance and new cashier station; new serving station and Epic Eats stations; new windows between the serving line and hallways; and new lighting.

More information on Fresh Ideas at RU can be found at