FOOD SERVICE COUNTERS
Idyllically situated in Regents’ Park, the building that is now Regents’ College
originally formed part of the University of London. In 1984, the Crown
lease was taken by Rockford College, Illinois, with a view to providing
American students with an opportunity to embark on courses with a strong
British bent. Over the following years, other institutions have moved
here and now there are five very successful schools offering pre-degree
and foundation courses through to undergraduate and postgraduate programs
to students from all over the world. It is now regarded as one of the
UK’s most respected private colleges.
A recent programme of refurbishment, spearheaded by Director of Facilities,
Nicholas Turner, included re-designing and upgrading the college’s
five catering facilities. More than 2500 students, staff and visitors
eat at the college every day, but the vast majority use the Regents’ Refectory,
the main student restaurant, which is open seven days a week.
Mr Turner needed a company that could interpret his ideas accurately
and work to a deadline to avoid disruption to student life. Following
introduction by the school’s contract caterer, Nelson Catering Equipment
won the contract to refurbish and re-fit all five sites.
The most important of these was, undoubtedly, the Refectory, where
an entire new servery counter system was required. The Refectory is
open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, providing meals that must appeal
to a wide taste spectrum. It is also open outside these times for hot
and cold beverages and snacks. More than 2000 students must be able
to access the servery at any mealtime, so the design had to allow a
large number of people to comfortably use the various areas at any
one time, whilst enabling free flow. Furthermore, it had to have the
capacity to cope with an inevitable increase in numbers as the college
John Nelson led the design team and worked closely with Nicholas
Turner to ensure the finished design would fulfil all his criteria. “It’s
absolutely vital in a situation like this that every last eventuality
has been considered,” he explains. “We decided that custom made units
would give us the flexibility we needed but, before work started, we
produced several sets of plans and elevations and, when these were
fully approved, we produced a video walk-through that showed the project
in real time to help the client to anticipate the finished result.
In my experience, putting extra effort into the initial stages not
only contributes to a perfect design, but avoids the possibility of
The food service servery area is now compartmentalised to simplify
the students’ choice, maximise food display and prevent queues. Those
people simply wanting a sandwich or roll can choose from the Grab & Go
display which is sited in front of the main servery counter. A centrally
located, ‘L’ shaped, chilled, salad counter means that students opting
for salads and a drink can take what they want and leave immediately.
Similarly, a soup counter and a hot and cold beverage area can be accessed
without having to follow a path around the servery’s periphery.
For those wanting a hot meal, a large heated display sited directly
in front of the commercial kitchen holds a constantly replenished selection
of the day’s dishes. A further hot and cold display holds desserts
and is also utilised for breakfast service.
The ergonomic floor layout provides generous spaces between displays
to enable free footfall and prevent a build up in any one area, not
unlike a food court. Also, because students pay by means of a pre-loaded
debit card which simply has to be swiped, the payment process is fast
The aesthetic appeal of the food servery counters was important too. The nearby
reception counter was the inspiration and Nicholas Turner asked for
the same German slate top and brushed aluminium trim to visually tie
the two together.
Covers are already showing an increase as students are using the
Refectory for more of their daily meals meaning that the installation
is an unparalleled success.