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“The Branch” cafeteria opens for business

After months of construction and years of patience, the long-awaited new cafeteria, The Branch, opened its doors to students yesterday.  

In addition to the modern style, UDining has provided Oklahoma Christian University students with an entirely new menu. Kurt Hermanson, owner and operator of UDining, oversees all of Oklahoma Christian’s food services. He said students can expect a variety of aesthetic, logistical and menu changes. 

After scanning into the cafeteria, students will have 35 minutes to re-enter the serving area without taking another meal off of their card. Additionally, The Branch offers a long list of new items including personalized pizzas, a Mongolian grill and healthier options.

Hermanson also noted the new open dining room will allow students eating at Chick-fil-A and Aguila Grill to sit in the same space as the students eating in the new cafeteria. 

“If you are on an Unlimited Plan, you will have to scan your card each time you enter the serving area with no issues. Come and go as you like, you just have to scan every time,” Hermanson said. “This will be very different than the old space and will take some getting used to, and we will be happy to answer any questions you might have. I can’t wait for everyone to see and experience the new space.”

After working at Oklahoma Christian for 30 years, Hermanson said UDining has served over 7.5 million meals to students in the “old caf” over the past 21 years. 

“This new space has been a dream come true for me,” Hermanson said. “The space that we just moved out of we were in for 21 and a half years with minor cosmetic changes, so this new space has been a blessing to the university and to me personally. I am most excited about being able to provide great food to a great student body and a great institution.”

Transitioning to the new space has also affected the UDining management team, but according to Hermanson, this has not stopped employees from working hard.

“Moving into this space has been a huge undertaking. Getting everything ready has taken an army of people,” Hermanson said. “We have worked really hard to make sure that we will be ready for our first meal, as well as making sure we have all the equipment, serving vessels, utensils, glasses carts and employees to get this open and ready for all our guests.”

Yesterday during chapel, Dean of Students Neil Arter reminded students to remain patient with the cafeteria staff as they transition into a new space.

“This is a really exciting day,” Arter said. “This is an area reserved for you, and it’s a space that you helped design. Your input has been taken in, and it gives you a lot more options too.”

General Manager for UDining Lauren Olsen said she is eager to welcome students back to show off the new space.

“The transition has been a huge team effort,” Olsen said. “There have been months of meetings and planning building up to the opening. We’ve worked on staffing, training, menu development, reviewing equipment needs, developing production levels, uniforms, signage and much more.”

Most than anything, Olsen said she looks forward to a fresh start for her team and Oklahoma Christian students in the new space.

“We will have many more options than were available in the old space,” Olsen said. “Many of the options are made to order, giving you more control over what you eat. The old space was old and dated. The new space is bright and inviting, and I think our new menus really reflect that.”

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