Ventilation upgrades delay Chick-fil-A reopening

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By STEVEN SPEARS
Managing Editor
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Fans of Chick-fil-A will have to wait a few extra months before they can enjoy one of its chicken sandwiches.
The UCM Board of Governors met via teleconference Friday, Aug. 5, and unanimously approved $300,000 in additional funding to cover a new vent hood system and upgrade the seating area in the Steak ‘n Shake location. The initial completion date for Chick-fil-A was Sept. 26, according to a proposal presented at the board of governors meeting. The restaurant is now expected to reopen at the beginning of the spring semester.
“We really did not understand fully the scope and magnitude of the deficiencies early on,” said Jim Halcombe, Sodexo resident district manager. “So that was cumbersome and troubling to us and it took a while for us to fully understand where we stood and where we needed to go.”
The restaurant closed over the summer to make way for Steak ‘n Shake. The plan is for Chick-fil-A to move to the lower level food court where it will replace Burger King and Pizza Hut, however, construction on Chick-fil-A has yet to begin as the ventilation system in place does not meet the restaurant’s corporate standards, according to a board of governors briefing paper. President Chuck Ambrose said the ventilation hood impacts all food service on the first floor of the Union.
“If we dove into the ventilation hood right now, not only could we have no retail on the first floor for food prep, it would be four to five – maybe even six – weeks to restore service,” Ambrose said. “What we’ve elected to do is put Chick-fil-A off until the start of spring semester.”
Ambrose said construction on the ventilation system would take place during winter break. The administration made the decision less than 48 hours before the board of governor’s meeting.
Halcombe said Chick-fil-A’s preference is to have a complete operation in place before reopening.
“I’ve had eight or 10 conversations with them recently and they feel it’s important to open up with an entire new restaurant as opposed to what it might mean to us to be closed,” he said.
Halcombe said Chick-Fil-A has a team working on different concepts to provide food service to campus before the restaurant’s completion. He said the company is considering everything from a trailer to a cargo container.
“But they’re fully committed to maintaining a Chick-fil-A presence in Warrensburg and under our retail front,” Ambrose said.
Ambrose said updating the ventilation system is a necessary expenditure. He said there was a backup in the current ventilation system that set off the Union fire alarms during a board of governor’s meeting last year. The alarm went off three times before the cause was found.
“It was actually that ventilation hood that was not sufficient to handle the existing demands,” Ambrose said. “So when we add Chick-fil-A downstairs it kind of ratchets up a notch.”
The new ventilation hood will cost $100,000, according to the briefing paper. This cost covers the hood but not the new vertical shaft that will replace the current serpentine ventilation system. The new hood system will alleviate the number of false firm alarms from the buildup of smoke in the Union’s food service prep areas caused by inadequate ventilation, according to the briefing paper.
The proposed funding will come from Union auxiliary funds and include an estimated $180,000 for new furniture, flooring, paint and a meeting room in the Steak ‘n Shake area, according to the briefing paper.
Steak ‘n Shake’s completion date was pushed back from Aug. 1 to Aug. 22. Sodexo secured a Steak ‘n Shake food truck that will be on campus from Monday, Aug. 15 to Friday, Aug. 19, according to the briefing paper.
Taco Bell, Sub Connection and Southern Tsunami Sushi will be open when school begins. Sodexo is also working on an in-house version of a chicken offering.