Changes to Café Laura to benefit hospitality management students, customers

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Café Laura, an on-campus restaurant that trains Penn State hospitality management (HM) students for future careers in the industry, will be under construction this summer with changes designed to benefit both HM students and customers.

The project, funded in part by a gift from Panda Express, has Café Laura closing on Friday, April 25, with plans to reopen on Monday, August 21, for the first day of the fall 2014 semester.

Café Laura is staffed primarily by students in two HM classes, HM 330 and 430. The students plan, market, prepare and serve customers while creating a memorable dining experience for the University community. It offers a wide variety of menu choices for lunch, and is well known for its popular theme dinners.

While some of the changes to Café Laura will be cosmetic, such as new carpet and chairs, other changes will enhance the educational mission of the restaurant.

“There are two common goals for the design,” said Scott King, manager of the café. “We want to increase the value of the education the students receive, as well as provide the University with a successful venue for lunch and dinner.”

King was heavily involved in the planning for the summer construction. Exciting changes include a “front of the house” cooking area, where lunch menus will boast street food-inspired items, while at dinner it will serve as a place for customers to watch as meals are prepared. For lunch patrons, the popular “Homestyle” station serving comfort foods will remain, and the construction plans call for a new grill and deli, pizza and salad stations, and an upgraded Pepsi service area. Another new addition to Café Laura will be a grab-'n-go café near the main entrance of the Mateer Building, serving Starbucks coffee. It was made possible by a gift from a generous donor.

“I think these changes will make Café Laura truly different from other areas on campus,” said King. “This is a lunch place where you can socialize, while for dinner we offer great meals at a low price.”

Café Laura and its student employees will benefit from a generous donation from Micros, including new wall-mounted computers, state-of-the-art registers boasting wireless technology, and three portable tablets. In addition, kitchen display systems will help employees keep track of orders. Patrons will also enjoy free, high-speed internet access.

In the end, King stressed it all comes back to education. “It’s important to educate the students on all facets of the industry so when they go out there they already have experience. Our goal is to not only make it a nice restaurant, but to also provide the best education and training we can.”

For more information on Café Laura, visit www.cafelaura.psu.edu.

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Last Updated May 13, 2014