Since the first announcment we have made changes to the interior fit-out to improve the space for the IDS band to play (acoustics, power, lighting, smaller moveable furniture), we’ve concluded the tap beer conversations (yes- tap is staying), we’re improving Wi-Fi connectivity downstairs, extending service hours on the new drinks and coffee bar with barista coffee and drinks and snacks available throughout the afternoon and we’ve made smaller additions such as a clock in the restaurant space for the students so they don’t miss the start of their next lecture! We have also increased the seating capacity since the earlier designs were circulated.
The bar and restaurant is closing on 20 December and the refurbishment should be finished by the 3 February 2020.
The IDS restaurant was last refurbished 15 years ago, at a time when it catered for 30+ residential guests, hosted daily tea breaks in the morning and afternoons and catered for numerous formal dinners and funded social occasions, in addition to breakfasts and lunches for walk-in customers from the wider campus.
Much has changed since then. We have reduced our residential accommodation and have seen increased competition on campus from eight restaurants provided by country’s largest academic caterer Chartwells, a low-cost CO-OP supermarket and the Student Union bar and restaurant nearby. Tastes and demand have changed, with more increase interest in lighter meals, and grab and go options; the need to cater appropriately for a growing number of workshops and short courses; and growing importance attached to food that is sustainably and locally sourced, in keeping with our values.
In financial terms, these factors have contributed to a steadily declining position for our restaurant and bar over the last three years.
Other things have not changed: the value of having a restaurant and bar onsite as a focus for the Institute’s social life and collegiality; the importance of a bespoke catering service that takes seriously and IDS’s particular needs; and some longstanding relationships with a dedicated hospitality staff.
To build on the best of what we have, reverse the decline and maintain a vibrant and welcoming restaurant and bar for the IDS community and others, we will be redeveloping the service so it is fit for our future ambitions.
We have undertaken a comprehensive process for considering both internal redevelopment options and externally managed solutions for our bar and restaurant over the last two years. These include stakeholder feedback sessions, food tours, professional consultancy and considerations around internal refresh options looking at different models for staffing, menus, opening hours, mobile coffee carts and restaurant refurbishments.
Following an open tender to investigate options we have chosen to partner with Thomas Franks. A friendly and approachable family owned business established in 2004 with their head office based in Oxfordshire. They have specific academic and school expertise as well as business customers. Their offer is centred around tailor made catering solutions using seasonal products sourced from local suppliers.
They demonstrated a very good understanding of the IDS brief and share our values in putting people first and have committed to create a bespoke experience that upholds our IDS values; respectfulness, inclusivity, excellence and resourcefulness.
If all goes to plan, we should all be enjoying our re-vamped Restaurant and Bar by the middle of January 2020.
I hope you will all share my excitement at these plans. The restaurant and bar are an incredibly important and longstanding part of IDS life, culture and collegiality, and we did not go into this process of change lightly. Getting to this point has involved long reflection and much consultation involving Facilities, staff, external advice, and SLG, over a long period. We have thought long and hard about the various options and been highly aware of the risks as well as opportunities. I do genuinely believe that the solution we have arrived at is a really good one for us all, and for IDS into the future.
Personally, I’m particularly happy about the Ottolenghi-style salads, the revamped coffee bar and the cosy discussion corners in the new space, and will be looking forward to sociable chats with many of you there come January! Melissa Leach, IDS Director
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