Behind the scenes look at feeding the RMU community

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Behind the scenes look at feeding the RMU community

A sign at the entrance of RoMo's Cafe. Photo Credit: (RMU Sentry Media/Michael Sciulli)

A sign at the entrance of RoMo's Cafe. Photo Credit: (RMU Sentry Media/Michael Sciulli)

Michael Sciulli

A sign at the entrance of RoMo's Cafe. Photo Credit: (RMU Sentry Media/Michael Sciulli)

Michael Sciulli

Michael Sciulli

A sign at the entrance of RoMo's Cafe. Photo Credit: (RMU Sentry Media/Michael Sciulli)

Michael Sciulli, Sports Copy Editor

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MOON TOWNSHIP – It is 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday and the lines at Robert Morris University’s PNC Colonial Café overflow with students waiting to order their dinner. It is no small task to feed these individuals, with over 4,000 undergraduate students passing through each day.

With thousands of mouths to feed and multiple food service locations, RMU has a process in place that helps them to conquer this monumental task. Lisa Rodgers and Keith Lyne are the individuals who make sure this process runs smoothly each day.

At the top is Lisa Rodgers, senior general manager for Parkhurst Dining at Robert Morris. Having worked at RMU for three years, when Rodgers was asked about her daily responsibilities she giggled and simply said, “I don’t know that I have one set thing.”

Rodgers is responsible for managing personnel to make sure that they are aware of what they should be doing to prepare food. On top of that, she also makes sure that the food’s quality is up to the university’s standards.

Alongside Rodgers is the assistant director of retail operations for Parkhurst Dining at Robert Morris, Keith Lyne. While he does a lot of the same processes as Rodgers, Lyne also handles the marketing side of food preparation.

This is more involved than one may think. To start, Lyne has to make sure that the weekly menu and emails that go out to the students are accurate to their stock. Additionally, he makes sure that all of the signage is modified to provide the proper information.

As for the process of picking the menu, collaboration is key. The input for what is served comes from multiple sources, including a committee, student feedback and the chefs’ preferences.

When picking the products to sell, there are few limitations in what they are allowed to serve. The only restrictions come in branding, which must be consistent across campus.

“It is open-ended, the only restrictions (that) we do have is Pepsi,” said Rodgers.

Rodgers stated that they had looked into getting Dr. Pepper as a drink option in the past. However, according to Rodgers, they cannot supply the beverage because it is distributed by The Coca-Cola Company. Because of this, there would be a conflict of interest between Coke and PepsiCo.

“It’s an ongoing cycle of trying new things,” said Lyne. “We try to change as the students change.”

One thing that makes this process easier is knowing the customer base at RMU and keeping a close eye on shifting trends. “You have your same customers every day, you get to know your customers and that’s kind of what makes it easier to change with the trends of how things are going,” said Lyne.

While a lot of thought goes into the menu, not every student is happy with what is offered. Sophomore nursing student Samantha Pokusa said that the variety of food at Robert Morris is “okay.”

She went on to say that because of her class schedule running late, the PNC Café closes before she can get lunch. “I am forced to pick from the slim pickings here, and it’s average,” said Pokusa.

As for food at Romo’s, Pokusa said that she does not like eating there because the sandwiches get boring. As the menu does not change, the options can get repetitive.

With thousands of mouths to feed on a daily basis, Lyne and Rodgers are at the very top of the structure that sustains RMU. The next time you see RMU students chowing down on food at Romo’s or another on-campus establishment, remember that consumer feedback is the main cog that drives campus cuisine.

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