The Goat’s Head is Abuzz with Starbucks, New Concept Eateries   

Student input influences evolving dining options 
August 30, 2021
Matthew Burgos

As the academic year starts, students and staffers won’t go hungry or drag between classes. Big things—delicious new food options and an exciting, new way of getting that daily caffeine fix—have come to The Goat’s Head in Founders Hall.

Chartwells, the company that manages WPI’s dining services, has added a Starbucks, Pho U, and Paper Lantern to the lineup, says Joe Kraskouskas, director of dining services. It’s all part of a long-term, multiyear plan that will help ensure that the university can adequately serve a growing student population while providing cuisine choices for all.

“WPI has been growing and we wanted Chartwells’ input, to see what trends they predicted,” based on industry knowledge of other New England campuses, says Kraskouskas. WPI’s goal was to leverage existing resources, meet student population demands, and introduce new food items, incorporating mobile ordering and more choices outside of traditional breakfast and lunch times.

Kraskouskas says that bringing Starbucks and new concept eateries to campus is a well-thought-out initiative, with teams at work all summer to get all the pieces in place.

Refreshing these physical spaces is a welcome bonus to WPI overall, he said, giving returning students new places to explore this fall.

Noodles, anyone?

Emily Perlow, associate dean of students, says Starbucks joins Dunkin' Donuts, which has been on campus for 15 years. Starbucks offers another needed gathering spot for students in Founders Hall.

“We’ve been examining how we can gain more study space, while also supporting students with their busy schedules with dining options that offer the greatest flexibility," Perlow says. "The idea of having Starbucks as an anchor affects lots of students on the east side of campus.”

While the full-service Starbucks covers the Frappuccino, latte, and baked-goods crowd, Paper Lantern’s fare is fast-casual Asian, with Pho U right next to it—both in the former Goat’s Head bar area—serving up dim sum, ramen, pho (a Vietnamese soup), and other pan-Asian fusion items. Starbucks is open for walk-in customers, whereas Paper Lantern and Pho U are currently open just for mobile ordering, with pickup from the adjacent take-out food lockers.

Where the Starbucks is a solid fixture, Paper Lantern and Pho U are concept restaurants at WPI—they will evolve and change every seven weeks. The TVs behind the stations will have programmed/branded menus that will change based on the time of day. Student input helped fuel the first three rollout concept themes, Perlow says, with sampling and opinions gathered at the Food Festival in Morgan Hall last spring. Polling for feedback will continue and will influence what comes next. Magnetic and digital signage, and the ability to use the same equipment, makes for quick turnovers at Founders Hall as concepts shift, says Kraskouskas, signaling to students that there are new, exciting menu choices to be explored.

Bringing these new options to The Goat’s Head took hard work and careful planning on behalf of Kraskouskas and his team. No time was wasted to transform the area.

“The day students moved out in the spring, we started renovating,” Perlow says.

Eatery anticipation

Soon to come is a third concept restaurant, The Melt Lab, offering a variety of gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches. It is located where WPI’s On-The-Go convenience store used to be in Founders Hall.

Kraskouskas says that putting the finishing touches on The Melt Lab, such as installation of mobile ordering and self-checkout technology, will ensure students have a streamlined ordering and dining experience.

To round out menu choices, WPI is also experimenting with a “ghost kitchen” concept. Ghost kitchens have no counter and no storefront. Food is ordered on a mobile platform and is then available for pick-up. With no signage to change, a ghost kitchen allows for ultimate menu flexibility. Kraskouskas foresees more food options arising as WPI grows its app-based mobile delivery service, which he calls “extremely popular.”

With the university’s existing dining sites, mobile ordering capabilities, and now the addition of Starbucks and these three concept restaurants, WPI students are in for a delicious fall. Download the Dine on Campus app or check the website for updated information about dining.