University of Georgia, Bolton Dining Commons
When the University of Georgia (UGA) decided to build a new dining hall to replace the nearly 50-year-old Bolton Hall, the challenge was how to preserve its valued culinary traditions while embracing the opportunity to bring 21st-century innovation and excitement to the UGA dining experience. Two-and-a-half years later, the $27 million, two-story Bolton Commons set a new ASSOCIATED FIRMSmith Dalia Architects (Architect of Record), Bruner/Cott & Associates (Design Architect)CAPACITY1,000COST PER SQ FT$540.00 for culinary excellence and high-quality down-home cooking on the Georgia campus.
UGA’s dining halls, which serve more than 30,000 meals a day, had long been recognized as one of the nation’s top food service operations. Signature concepts for the old Bolton Hall included such items as great Southern barbecue, a lavish salad bar and a mouth-watering bakery. But these offerings came via an outdated and overloaded venue, with uninviting cafeteria lines and back-of-house kitchen.
From the start, Michael Floyd, UGA Vice President, and Jeanne Fry, UGA Executive Director of Food Services, were dedicated to protecting tradition and ensuring that the wonderful old Bolton menu offerings would not be lost. They also were enthusiastic about bringing in a new methodology—exhibition cooking, action stations, up-front prepping and serving, and fresh food delivery—into the dining hall, while celebrating the existing signature concepts from UGA’s traditional menu. “We were charged with taking those Signature Concepts for Bolton and giving them a new approach,” explains Lenny Condenzio, partner at Ricca Design Studios. “They wanted us to reinvent how traditional offerings would be prepared and served.”
Some imaginative new concepts have been enthusiastically received. Perhaps the biggest change is “Special Selections,” health-oriented offerings created to address the growing prevalence of food allergies. Situated in the Main Line area, all Special Selection servings are free of the top eight allergens and gluten. “I’m really glad we did Special Selections,” says Bryan Varin, Associate Director of Food Services. “Not only is the food free of the top allergens, but it is quality driven and something that anybody will enjoy eating.”
The Bolton team has paid attention to every detail to heighten the overall dining experience. The success is evident not only in the 8,000-plus meals a day, seven days a week, that Bolton is serving, but in the many students lingering in the lounges, meeting for study groups, savoring smoked brisket, eating pancakes at 9 p.m., or stealing away for a shake before breakfast. The new Bolton Dining Commons has not only maintained the tradition of the Bolton experience, but also creates new dining traditions in an innovative, attractive, functional, and delicious environment of culinary excellence where everyone feels at home.