The 800 Café gives students experience running a restaurant
Published April 30, 2012
NDSU student Amanda Stumpf has a whole new appreciation of her dining experiences at restaurants. That’s because she and classmates from her foodservice systems management course have spent 10 weeks running a restaurant called the 800 Café – its name based on the fact every meal has 800 calories or less.
The restaurant has been serving lunch every Tuesday and Thursday in room 312 of the Family Life Center since late February. Students will prepare and serve lunch for the last time this semester on Tuesday, May 1, and Thursday, May 3. The menu includes chips and fresh salsa, fish tacos topped with corn and black bean slaw and Anaheim salsa, Mexican rice, black beans and a “fried” ice cream parfait.
Teamwork is a major learning objective, said Sherri Stastny, assistant professor in health, nutrition and exercise sciences, who teaches the course. At the beginning of the semester, the students usually don’t know each other well and come with different skills. “By the time they are done, they are a cohesive unit,” Stastny said.
The 19 students enrolled in the course rotate jobs every week, so they can try every role: manager, server, hostess, baker, salad maker, cook and dish washer. “It’s cool that everyone gets to play each role,” said Stumpf, a junior dietetics major from Harvey, N.D. Her favorite job was cook because she enjoys preparing food and being behind the scenes.
The week Miranda Bonk, a junior majoring in dietetics from Appleton, Minn., was manager, she chose the menu, designed the dining room, assigned tasks to the workers, promoted the lunch to campus, calculated the nutrition facts that are provided for customers, compiled the grocery list, made sure they had the ingredients and set up work stations for the cook and baker. “It’s a big teamwork thing to make everything run smoothly,” Bonk said.
Students build their menus from standardized recipes that allow them to accurately calculate nutrition facts, a job that takes 10 to 12 hours for each meal. Stastny said they often find standardized recipes in a textbook or in the recipe collection from past classes and then adapt the recipes to make them their own. The recipe adaptations require a nine-step process to test and standardize the recipe, she said.
One of the things Stumpf said she has learned is how to design an appetizing meal within dietary guidelines. “There is a lot of calculation – more than you’d think,” she said.
Before the restaurant opens, Stastny spends a significant amount of time teaching about sanitizing dishes and overall safety and sanitation. Jana Miller, a junior majoring in dietetics from Bismarck, N.D., and Rebecca Nolte, a junior majoring in dietetics from Pembina, N.D., took their turn as dishwashers in mid-April. Their job was to sort the dishes and use a restaurant-grade dishwasher that heats to more than 180 degrees during the rinse cycle to kill germs. It wasn’t their favorite job, but it was one of the less stressful roles, they said.
Kari Nelson, a junior majoring in dietetics from Moorhead, Minn., said being part of the 800 Café has taught her the importance of time management and being accurate on portion sizes. “It’s a really good experience,” she said.
What about kitchen disasters? During her 10 years teaching the class, Stastny said there was one memorable mishap. The dessert maker used salt instead of sugar and didn’t taste the dessert before serving it. Stastny noted that the student is now a successful dietitian and that the 800 Café has a policy that every dish is tasted before it is served in the dining room.
Stastny said the 800 Café earns 99 percent on customer satisfaction surveys. “The meals they serve are beautiful and tasty,” she said. “This is a great place to have lunch.”
For May 1 or May 3 reservations, send an email to Ronda.Klubben@ndsu.edu. Seating is from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. The cost of lunch, beverage included, is $8.