GV food gets rebrand with Laker Food Co.


GVL | Annabelle Robinson

Lea Gaetto, Staff Writer

Laker Food Co., formerly Campus Dining, has recently been re-established as the brand new food service at Grand Valley State University.

Despite there being numerous bumps in the road with this corporation over the past two years such as poor feedback from students or the COVID-19 outbreak, the company has made efforts to turn it into a positive experience.  

“Like most businesses, supply chain issues, labor shortages and reduced populations made for challenging operations,” said Deb Rambadt, Marketing Director of Laker Food Co. at GVSU.

When GVSU students returned to campus in the fall of 2021, campus life as students and staff knew pre-pandemic was not attainable. Many classes were hybrid, but most were fully on a Zoom call at home or in the dorm.

This left Campus Dining struggling to maintain employees and satisfy company and customer needs. As collateral damage, dining options were limited.

To combat these issues the corporation offered several incentives for people to join the team such as a sign-on bonus, though this stimulus was not enough to save the business needs. They remained understaffed and as a result they could not reopen fan-favorite restaurants until fall 2022.

Despite these setbacks, Laker Food Co. took monumental steps to enhance its image after two years and was able to fully open all dining resources on campus for the first fall season in years.

“Laker Food Co. continues to hire to meet staffing needs,” Rambadt said. “We continue to see some supply chain issues as vendors and distributors manage their own staffing issues, though other areas of pandemic concern have reduced.”

The pandemic alone presented enough issues for Laker Food Co. to address, but it also brought light to significant and necessary changes that needed to be made.

Rambadt has been with the university for 26 years. During her time here, she said that she has had the opportunity to witness remarkable amounts of change within the facility in the form of restaurant expansions, new menus, food-related technology and services.

“Changes and additions are driven by student feedback, suggestions and food trends,” Rambadt said. “The campus community response has been very positive.” 

Last year, students raised concerns regarding Campus Dining’s contract with food service company Aramark. While the GVSU continues to contract food service from the company, significant changes have been made to dining operations on campus.

Many students agree with Rambadt’s statement and are thrilled to see the campus dining hall up and running again. Senior student at GVSU, Alana Appel, spoke highly of Campus Dining before the pandemic.

“When I first started at GVSU, I always loved to go to the dining hall to buy food, hang out with my friends and feel like I was embracing the college experience,” Appel said. “I was definitely disappointed when I returned my sophomore year to see everything I once loved about Campus Dining had been closed or gone for good.”

Though, as places started to open up more and more Appel became eager to venture back to campus, even if that felt, in her words, “so Freshman of her.”

“I was extremely excited to go to Zoca when it returned because I missed it so much,” Appel said. “The food was always spot-on, which is why it was my favorite place to get tacos, chips, salsa and a drink— the best part was that it was for just one meal swipe.”

While students’ favorite on-campus restaurants are up and running again, there have been new places introduced on campus this year for students to try. Many of the already existing restaurants have also undergone some changes over the summer.

Alyssa Koopman, the Laker Food Co. Registered Dietitian at GVSU, said The Dish within Kleiner has been renovated and is now an all-you-care-to-eat location with an allergen-friendly station called True Balance.

“This station has a separate prep space, cooking utensils, dishwasher, etc., and everything prepared is made without the top nine allergens,” Koopman said. “The Fresh Food Co. brand has been updated along with new menus and options for students. Other changes include the expanded Zoca and Ciao at Fusion within Kirkhof, the addition of Bento Sushi in Marketplace and a menu and station refresh at Engrained in the Connection.”

In the past many students have described their experiences with Campus Dining as one that lacked options for their needs.

Laker Food Co., however, has made it their mission to see to it that all students have access to foods they can eat, no matter their dietary restrictions or preferences. Koopman defined the purpose of all these changes as a way to provide more variety for students on campus. 

“Some examples of the changes available to serve students include the addition of True Balance inside The Dish, offering made-without-gluten buns, hoagies, pasta, crusts, etc.,” Koopman said. “Also, it includes rotating vegan or vegetarian entrees and emphasizing nutrient-dense options with appropriate signage.”

Whole food options have always been available to students, but the emphasis and education on these choices have only amplified within the past year. One of these healthier options is Bento Sushi, and students have been raving about how great this restaurant’s food has been.

“I love their sushi,” GVSU Freshman Tara Barnett stated. “I have been to Bento Sushi plenty of times, so many times that I have lost count. My go-to sushi roll is the spicy California one, and I recently tried the salmon poke bowl. “

Barnett said the employees showcase excellent, personable customer service skills. She said it feels like they want to make sure you find something you like, not just something that is the easiest for them to make.

“I have had so many great experiences there, so I was not that bummed when I found out there was only one thing on the menu that I did not like,” Barnett said. “I will definitely be going back for more sushi soon and I highly recommend this place to everyone.”