Campus dining has, historically, fallen into two categories: ‘not bad’ and ‘good enough.’ Director of campus dining Glenn Loughridge ’94 wants to change that.
“I had an incredible experience as an Auburn student,” said Loughridge, “but I don’t have any super positive memories of the food. It really wasn’t something that contributed to my experience, necessarily.”
As VP for business development at Watermark Management Group, Loughridge—a onetime seafood distributor to Florida-based restaurants—was tasked with finding the right managers for restaurants around the country. When he returned to Auburn in 2012, he took on the job of turning campus dining around himself.
“My thought coming back was, I want to make dininga remarkable part of a student’s experience. There’s all sorts of statistics that show that students who spend more time on campus, the better their experience is and they succeed better both academically and socially. Dining really has an opportunity to support that cohesion and camaraderie, so we want to create that feel where if you want to study or hang out and just eat with friends, you can.”
Blending quality food with an atmosphere that invites social interaction was the central idea behind the renovations Loughridge and his team implemented throughout Auburn’s 35 unique on-campus dining options. Among the newest options for students is the Wellness Kitchen first opened in 2014 on South Donahue drive, next to the athletic center.
Originally designed for student-athletes, the Wellness Kitchen’s “all you care to eat” self-service style features six stations ranging from a salad bar and smoothie station to a ‘hot’ line with meat and vegetables hand-picked by sports dieticians to maximize training and recovery.
“What we didn’t plan for is the incredible interest that our other students have,” said Loughridge. “It was built as a place for student-athletes to do the training table, but we also wanted everyone to participate and experience it as well, and it’s been incredibly popular. In fact, our goal next year is to replicate what we do in Wellness Kitchen in Foy [Union].”
Open to the entire community, the Wellness Kitchen has even begun hosting Sunday brunch after home football games for travelers looking to refuel on their way out. Loughridge says, on an average day, a thousand or more people will pass through the 200-seat facility, a positive sign for their future plans.
“It’s the old adage about ‘eating an elephant,’ you have to eat it a bite at a time,” said Loughridge. “You’re only as good as the last plate of food that goes out, and having that attitude every day is important. We have students who value this place, and it really does let you know that what you do matters. I love being able to do that every day.”