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June 2000

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 Carlye Calvin.)

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 February issue 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 (vryan@ucar.edu, ext. 1193).

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.

Bob Henson


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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
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