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Major renovations start on cafeteria, student center

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – One of Vice President for Business Affairs Allen Wedel’s favorite sayings is “It’s a great time to be at Bethel College.”

He has had plenty of reason to say it in the past year, thanks to multiple improvements to campus facilities, one of his major areas of responsibility – most recently regarding the cafeteria.

As Aladdin Food Service’s contract was coming to an end this spring, a committee of staff, administrators and students entertained bids from seven vendors, including Aladdin – all of whom had to make major cafeteria renovations part of their proposal.

Late in the spring semester, Wedel announced that Aladdin would keep the contract, having made the successful bid.

“In our contract negotiations, we asked [all seven companies] to include renovations and give their vision for them,” Wedel said. “Aladdin came the best prepared. They had obviously put a lot of work into it. They also had the lowest bid.

“Aladdin wanted the contract,” Wedel continued. “They want to make [Bethel’s cafeteria] a showplace for their organization.”

On spring Reading Day, right before semester final exams, Aladdin invited the whole campus to stop by the cafeteria for an afternoon snack and a brief presentation on what they’d be doing starting in late June.

Bethel’s last residential summer camp, Broadway at Bethel, ended June 24. June 25, student workers began clearing tables and chairs out of the cafeteria in Schultz Student Center.

When students return in late August, the furniture will be new, as will the flooring, Wedel said. Colors will be “brighter and bolder,” and coordinated with Bethel’s official color palette. The dish return will be a conveyor belt system – “no more 30-gallon trash cans,” Wedel said.

There will be new serving lines. The salad bar will be double-sided, portable and placed in the middle, instead of on a side wall as in the past. The drink machines will be moved to the side, with the walls behind them knocked out to further open the space.

“A lot of the remodeling is moving food prep out front,” Wedel continued. “There will be ‘Show-Time,’ [periodic cooking of special items] and a regular ‘Grill Works’ for pizzas, burgers and omelets. There will be a ‘Homestyle’ area for comfort food, and an expanded vegetarian menu.”

The chef from Maharishi University, an all-vegetarian campus in Fairfield, Iowa, will be working with Bethel’s chef to develop more vegetarian options.

“It’s going to be more of a food court concept,” Wedel said.

Bethel’s steadily increasing enrollment over the past several years has raised some space issues, especially on Mondays and Fridays after convocation when a critical mass of students goes to lunch at the same time.

Wedel said the hope is that adding serving platforms will help ease congestion. In addition, the three conference/seminar rooms divided from the north end of the cafeteria by accordion curtains will be done away with – remodeled to fit into the rest of the space for added seating capacity.

Though the cafeteria is by far the major piece of renovation being done in Schultz Student Center between now and the first of August, it’s not all.

The hallways will get new carpeting and wall coverings, new lighting and new signs. A digital announcement screen will replace the white board outside the cafeteria entrance, among numerous other additions and improvements.

Mojo’s Coffee Shop on the west end of Schultz Student Center will remain open throughout the renovations, but entrance will be restricted to the west door next to the street, and the available restrooms will be in the Fine Arts Center.

“It’s truly a great time to be at Bethel College,” Wedel said.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2011-12 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2011-12. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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