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April 11, 2012 Volume 33, No. 27

Campus Dining Services draws students to themed dining facility events

flash mob photo

FLASH MOB Plaza 900 staff member Megan Thomas, center, dances during the Bengal Rock Party. The event was part of Campus Dining Services’ themed nights. Rachel Coward photo.


Staff’s flash mob rocks Plaza 900

Dinner in a student-dining facility can be routine. You swipe in. You stand in line. You sit down and eat. 

But the routine changed recently at Plaza 900 dining facility. 

Hundreds of students turned out on April 6 for Plaza 900’s “fan favorite” menu and the chance to win an Xbox 360. Then the unexpected happened. 

Popular dance music suddenly blasted through the sound system and about 15 Campus Dining Services (CDS) staffers left their serving stations to shake their bodies in a choreographed dance. Truman the Tiger and a few Golden Girls appeared out of nowhere to join in. 

A flash mob had broken out at Plaza 900.

The event, called the Bengal Rock Party, was part of Campus Dining Services’ themed nights. The concept was developed several years ago to generate interest in the dining facility experience. Each facility is in charge of coming up with the themes, a special menu and activities or entertainment. 

For the Bengal Rock Party, Plaza 900 chef Brian Lambiotte wanted to give customers the feeling of a concert. 

“That’s where the ‘fan favorite’ items came from,” Lambiotte said. “We gave them what they wanted — the best of everything.” As for the concert, Plaza 900 servers spent time practicing and making floor space for the Bengal Rock Party’s flash mob dance. 

“We give a lot of license to each facility to come up with something truly unique,” said Eric Cartwright, Campus Dining Services executive chef. “We always do the expected holiday meals, but this gives us an opportunity to add even more variety for the customers. It gets people excited.”

During the themed events, CDS staff capture the reactions of customers on video to upload to social media sites.

“We’d like to get the word out on these experiences to as many people as we can,” said Michael Wuest, marketing manager. “If people see it online, they’ll be on the lookout for it the next time they are dining with us.”

The events draw diners. In March, Rollins dining facility held an Ozark themed night, complete with a barbeque and servers dressed in flannel. Rollins served 20 percent more customers during the event as compared to a normal night, Cartwright said.

CDS staffers are having a blast with the themed dinners. But what about the students? 

 “Totally unexpected,” “definitely something different,” “fresh,” “looks like I’m getting seconds” were some of the student comments overheard at the Bengal Rock Party.  

— David Earl