Northern Lights Dining facility revealed


Students gather in the Northern Lights Dining facility to experience the new food, seating areas and layout. The facility has 10 micro-restaurants in total, in comparison to the previous facility’s buffet style. Photo by Kelsii Kyto

Kelsii Kyto

After roughly four months of construction and delayed equipment delivery, the new Northern Lights Dining facility is open as of Friday, Sept. 21, and has received good feedback from its diners, said Associate Director of NMU Dining Paul Schoonveld.

“We’re excited to finally see it open, excited that students’ reactions have been so positive and so over the moon, and that’s really all we hoped for,”
Schoonveld said.

Most of the standard products like meat and seafood have stayed the same, Schoonveld said, but menu items have been revamped with a twist for a better dining

“It’s the next level products,” Schoonveld said. “Everything is ultra-premium.”

The last renovation was in fall of 2001, when the original Quad I Food Service changed to the Marketplace.

After a delay in material delivery, NMU dining knew it had a challenging task at hand to serve 4,000 meals per day while construction was still happening, Schoonveld said.

The opening of the cafe adjacent to the cafeteria was part of the solution to the ongoing construction. The cafe was opened in case the buffet lines got too long or for when the buffet was closed between meals, Schoonveld said.

“The hardest thing for us through the process was knowing what we were going to open with and the unveiling of the Northern Lights, and only being able to serve what we could serve and keep our capacity in the dining room.”

Schoonveld said. “That was hard, because it seemed like we were doing everything we possibly could do with what we had, however we all felt that we needed to do more but didn’t have an opportunity to do more.”

Because of the positive student feedback toward the cafe, Schoonveld said they would like to renovate it as soon as possible so it will come a permanent fixture.

The Northern Lights Dining switched to china dinnerware, because nothing looks appetizing when served on a plastic blue plate, he said.

“Not only does the food look better, but the plate starts out warm in most cases, its held warm,” he said. “Now when you grab that plate it’s already warm, you get that aroma of what you have on the plate.”

Everything is plated like you are going to a restaurant, which is exciting, he said.

“It’s really swanky in here. It looks new and modern and fresh,” Schoonveld said.

There are 10 micro-restaurants with their own specialties, and a locked room for students with food allergies and dietary restrictions. The separate micro-restaurants and their distinct brands help to have shorter lines.

A main part of the renovation included the expansion of seating areas for the recent increase in student population. The previous 685 seats increased to roughly 890, Schoonveld said.

“We understand that people don’t necessarily want to sit shoulder-to-shoulder,” he said. “The setting is almost as important as the food.”

The new seating also included new high tops, booths and tables, which Schoonveld called “dynamic” seating. For three meals a day, sitting in the same place can get boring, which is why they made such a drastic seating change, he said.

“Students want variety, and we recognize that,” he said.

The new furniture is currently being switched out with the old seating in these final touches of the renovation.
“This was a great opportunity for us to really look at what students want, what students find the most value in and what is it that they need most,”
Schoonveld said.

Katie Fust, a sophomore psychology and pre-med major explained that she enjoys the new facility’s look, but she is happy that she can still enjoy her favorite foods that the MP had to offer.

“It’s like the MP got plastic surgery,” she said.

It was an update that Northern needed, Fust added.

“I just wish they went with a more classic streamlined look because in another 10 years, they will have to redo the entire thing again because it’s so trendy,” Fust said. “But all in all, it’s easy on the eyes.”