During the summer of 2016, White Bear Inn and Northern on Main (NOM) were renovated and rebranded into WOW Café and COSI respectively.
WOW, a New Orleans-based fast casual restaurant chain, offers freshly made items, including chicken wings and tenders with a wide selection of sauces. Students may use a meal swipe exchange for five items, including two vegetarian options. The menu also includes burgers, chicken sandwiches, wraps and more.
COSI is an established café style brand with several locations in the Columbus area. Much of the restaurant’s offerings include use of freshly baked Italian-style flatbread and a square bagel called a “squagel.” The menu at COSI includes a multitude of sandwiches, soups, salads and bowls.
Vice President of Student Affairs Adriane Thompson-Bradshaw explained how these new changes in dining were aided by the renovation in the 2015-2016 academic year. “We got them [Sodexo] talking with us right away about if we renovate this space in the corner of the building then food’s got to be a part of that,” Thompson-Bradshaw said.
The Student Senate-led Dining Services Advisory Committee and university members gave input that helped select both the COSI and WOW brands. This data helped bolster the proposal for the franchises to come to ONU.
Sodexo had relationships already in place with COSI and WOW and is the franchise of both locations. Even though Sodexo workers operate the restaurants, representatives from the two chains came and trained employees to function in the same way any other franchise of the brands would regularly operate.
The implementation of the new brands coincided with changes in management within ONU’s Sodexo Dining Services. Former Head Chef Alan Blankenship is the new Operations Manager and is involved in the day-to-day dealing of all the dining locations, including the McIntosh Dining Hall .
Noah Ristau has taken over as General Manager of ONU’s Dining Services. Ristau spoke on his role, “I am responsible for the food service production and operations of all of the restaurants and catering program, its financial management, leadership of all dining service team members, and coordination and collaboration of our partnership with Ohio Northern to ensure that our goals and initiatives align with the university’s.” Ristau began as a student worker at his alma mater’s catering service. His 20-year career includes clients such as the University of Mary Washington, Wittenberg University, Richmond International Raceway and Quantico Marine Base. Student relations are important to Ristau and crucial to his position.
He stated, “The Dining Services Advisory Committee has been invaluable to this end, but I welcome direct feedback from our students. I love to know what’s on your mind and what we can do to make this a program you are proud of.”
Numbers show that the new dining options are well received by students with an average of 908 meal exchanges at WOW daily. COSI has also received a positive reaction from students and Ada community members with 314 transactions a day.