UCAR launches food service on Pearl East Circle
Special functions are a welcome challenge
When partygoers at the Spring Fling found themselves shivering in
unseasonable cold (see elsewhere in this issue), the festivities
moved indoors to the ML cafeteria. That worked flawlessly because,
when it comes to special functions, the whole Food Services crew
knows that there always has to be a Plan B.
The Special Functions office handles food and drink for some 300
events each year, on and off site. Some only call for a few box
lunches; others are far more involved. Although NIST's Fourteenth
Symposium on Thermophysical Properties will be held at CU, NCAR
will host a 29 June dinner on the mesa for around 700 people from
the meeting. "We can't possibly host a conference for 700, but we
can certainly host their reception and dinner," says Velma. Food
Services often caters NOAA events on Broadway. The annual CEDAR
meeting (Coupling, Energetics, and Dynamics of Atmospheric
Regions) now takes place at the new NOAA building rather than
NCAR, but UCAR still provides the eats and drinks. Ditto for the
recent U.S. Weather Research Program meeting.
For events on the mesa, "We try to look at what a client's vision
is for an event and make it work," says Velma. "We can do almost
anything, and we probably have done almost everything."
That includes plenty of employee family functions: weddings,
parties, and the like. UCAR policy allows employees and retirees
to reserve ML meeting rooms for such events. Food Services can
help them arrange for meals and plan what's appropriate, says
Velma. Nonprofit organizations may also use ML for after-hours
events with a UCAR staff member as sponsor; these have included a
dance group, the Children's Collage Museum, the city of Boulder
and the state of Colorado, to name a few.
Food Services' challenge for all-staff events is deciding
how much food to have ready. For the recent bash honoring Bob
Serafin (see elsewhere in this issue), the cafeteria had to be
prepared to serve anywhere from 150 to 500 attendees, since no
RSVPs were required.
Moving the Spring Fling indoors was almost to be expected with
Colorado's weather, says Velma. However, it was an anticlimactic
end to staff parties on the tree plaza as we know it. Starting in
July, the plaza will be dismantled and renovated. A new and
improved version will open next spring. BH
In mid-May, Vickie Culkin and Nancy Post van der Burg were getting
the Pearl Street cafetera space ready for its debut. (Photo by
The ML and FL cafeterias are the most visible part of UCAR's
burgeoning food services. There's much more on the plate,
including hundreds of special functions each year. Now Food
Services is opening its third site, which will serve almost 100
staff now lodged on Pearl Street (see the
of Staff Notes Monthly).
The new site is a "satellite operation," according to Velma Ryan,
manager of Meeting Rooms and Conferences, Food Services, and
Special Functions. Each day the ML cafeteria prepares hot entrees,
soups, and sandwich makings and ships them to Pearl Street in time
for lunch. Service is available from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The
new site is staffed by Vickie Culkin, a veteran of the FL
cafeteria. It's furnished with tables recently replaced at the
Mesa Lab and chairs formerly at FL.
Velma and company know their clientele. At Pearl Street, she says,
"this group likes grilled turkey and cheese a lot, whether it be
jack or cheddar." There are some interesting differences in taste
between FL and ML, too. For whatever reason--perhaps their
distance from Starbucks or Vic's--ML staff purchase more coffee
than those at FL, averaging about 2,500 cups a month vs. 1,500
cups at FL. On the other hand, the lowlanders at FL take to the
snacks with gusto. In one three-month period, they consumed over
1,500 cups of yogurt, about 950 pretzels, and more than 4,000
cookies. The yogurt numbers are comparable at ML, but the FL folks
consume roughly twice as many pretzels and cookies.
For entrees, "Mexican food is probably the most popular," says
Velma. The cafeteria serves south-of-the-border fare each Tuesday
and traditionally offers a Cinco de Mayo feast. Vegetarian and
health-oriented entrees are also popular, with one offered as a
main item daily. Along with old favorites, Food Services is
experimenting with new offerings. On Thursdays the Pearl Street
site will offer panini sandwiches grilled to order; if they're a
hit, they may spread to FL and ML as well. Velma welcomes your
menu suggestions and input any time (email@example.com, ext.
Velma gives credit for the ML and FL cafeterias' success to their
loyal core of patrons. Between 750 and 800 people, or well over
half of all employees, use their debit cards to eat there at least
once each pay period. In a city teeming with restaurant options,
Velma appreciates the support of staff.
Edited by Bob Henson,
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall