Despite the challenges and changes, the 1887 Bistro restaurant coordinators and staff have managed to adapt to new restrictions in order to serve students, both before and after classes moved online due to COVID-19. According to Jennifer Gilmore, director of marketing and communications for Campus Enterprises at NC State, the success of 1887 Bistro symbolizes the efforts of NC State’s hospitality services as a whole.
Shawn Hoch, senior director of dining and hospitality services at NC State, said COVID-19 restrictions forced his team to integrate new hours and technology within a short period of time to provide students with an optimal experience. He explained that, although the design for 1887 Bistro was originally for business lunches and late night dinners for students, the service model was changed to accommodate the circumstances.
“Originally, we had the 9-12 p.m. late night hours of operation, but because Talley started closing at 10 p.m., we changed hours to a 5-8 p.m. dinner instead,” Hoch said. “Right now, we only have our permanent staff available to cover shifts.”
According to Anthony Brown, director of retail operations at Talley Student Union, operating changes were made specifically to 1887 Bistro, with dining workers from around campus being consolidated in order to reduce the number of facilities being used around campus.
“We have compiled all our food services into Talley rather than being spread out across campus,” Brown said. “Our top chefs are still available and at least four of those guys are operating 1887 right now, so we are able to maintain hours of operation.”
Additionally, Hoch noted that quick innovations had to take place in order for NC State to reopen. He explained that the transition to mobile technology was a big learning curve as many of the equipment designs and models of the restaurant were rendered outdated with the new mobile service model.
“When you’re doing a project this large, it’s not easy to make adjustments with design and equipment packages,” Hoch said. “Still, our intention for 1887 Bistro was always takeout only, which allowed us to reduce staff and streamline operations. We found early on that students appreciated the ease of transaction with the Grubhub app.”
According to Sylvie Uwineza, former waitress at 1887 Bistro and a fourth-year studying psychology and linguistics, the transition to mobile ordering at the restaurant may have been a positive thing. Uwineza was a waitress at 1887 Bistro before the restaurant transitioned primarily to Grubhub and takeout.
“A lot of people said they never knew 1887 existed until they saw it on Grubhub,” Uwineza said. “I heard so many people saying they didn’t know they could use dining dollars and meal swipes there.”
Additionally, Hoch said the new innovations have caused NC State hospitality to consider changes to the form and function of 1887 Bistro in the future by integrating mobile ordering technology to their services.
“Now you can simply look at your phone when your orders are ready, scan it in the building, grab your bag and you’re out the door,” Hoch said. “We’re now looking at exciting new ways to think about service delivery models and how we may be able to shift concepts around for other retail.”
Despite many obstacles, 1887 Bistro has made the necessary adjustments and is still currently operating with new hours to serve the remaining students on campus. 1887 Bistro exemplifies the flexibility and willingness to change that characterized the students, staff and faculty of this year.
“Our main goal is to provide the best experience for our students,” Hoch said. “That’s true success for us, and we’ll continue to overcome new challenges to do this in the future.”