Skibo Café to be removed, making way for Au Bon Pain

On par with the current renovations taking place at the Jared L. Cohon University Center (CC), the Carnegie Mellon community will also be able to enjoy a new dining space in the building starting May 2016. Au Bon Pain (ABP) has been selected, from a series of proposals by local and national vendors, as the new concept that will occupy the space that is currently Skibo Café. The announcement was made by Carnegie Mellon’s Dining Services; the decision considered evaluations from several student representatives as well as other university stakeholders.

The involvement of students, the main users of the space, has been a great concern for the Dining Services team. Last Wednesday, a Dining Student Advisory Committee meeting was held in an effort to gather input on the space’s design and how it should look. Those present raised concerns regarding the seating areas and the necessity to preserve soft seating in the new Au Bon Pain Café, as well as adequate furniture for studying, in order to preserve and improve the space’s multi-functionality as an area of work, but also of leisure.
Director of Dining Services Pascal Petter mentioned during an interview with The Tartan that one of the main goals of the renovation was to increase sitting space, which is an issue in the CC. Additionally, Dining Services, in partnership with the campus design team, will also be shifting the layout of the space in order to make it more inviting in hopes of improving the flow of people. “We’re trying to come up with a final rendering that best represents the needs of our community,” Petter said about the plans for the Au Bon Pain space, which will later be shared with students in order to get more feedback. Natural materials, such as wood or felt, will be used in decorations to highlight the key message associated with the Café.

ABP has a long history of success in serving higher education institutions, with café locations in over 30 of the most notable colleges and universities in the country. The vendor will offer a diverse menu, appealing to a broad range of customers, and will have several cashier areas in order to avoid waiting lines during heavy traffic hours such as lunch time. Founded in 1978, “the place of good bread” has grown internationally and is now recognized as a leader in the fast-casual restaurant category. The chain’s signature items — at Carnegie Mellon they will serve 12 soups of the day, salads made to order, as well as a variety of baked goods and fresh bread—are served in a welcoming environment focusing on quick service and hospitality. The brand has received Health magazine’s distinction as one of America’s Top 5 Healthiest Restaurant Chains over the past three years and one of America’s Healthiest Restaurant Chains by Grellin.

As for students’ views on the recent change, the relationship between students and the current café gets called into question. In regard to the departure of Skibo from the Cohon Center, junior machine learning major Quinton Laurencio says that “it was time for a change.” He added that one concern is the potential ceasing of late night, but that the “consensus overall is that this is an upgrade.”

Construction of the new space will start in January 2016, and the Au Bon Pain Café is expected to open in May 2016.

The Carnegie Mellon community will also be able to enhance their dining experience through two new apps: GET funds and GET foods. The first allows students, faculty, and staff to add DineXtra funds to their dining account with ease. In any case, the biggest improvement point noticed so far is the non-expiration of funds for faculty and staff. GET food, on the other hand, will allow students to order food online in advance, a model adopted in many restaurants nowadays. Additionally, the Dining Services website has also been remodeled to become more user friendly, reducing the redundancy of processes and allowing students and all that look at the platform to access up to date working hours, nutritional information and location information.