The expansive project will transform Perry into a campus living room, adding refreshed dining options, increased seating and social space.

The expansive project will transform Perry into a “campus living room,” adding refreshed dining options, increased seating and social space.

Ivy Rose Ball

MSU dining to experience $30 million modernization

Mississippi State University and its dining contractor Aramark are modernizing campus dining services through a $30 million project to renovate and relocate dining options on campus.
MSU’s current contract with Aramark is coming to an end, and the two entities have designed a new master dining plan. The Marketplace at Perry is undergoing a comprehensive remodel. Starbucks, Subway and State Fountain Bakery are being relocated. All of the dining options along Lee Boulevard are receiving refreshed spaces, and a new sushi and noodle restaurant will replace the University Florist at 100 Lee Blvd.
Historic Perry Hall to receive transformative remodel
Home to MSU traditions like Fried Chicken Wednesday and Catfish Friday, the Perry cafeteria has a history that dates back over a hundred years. The Perry was constructed in 1921 and is a registered Mississippi Landmark.
Resident District Manager at Aramark James Jankowski said Perry will receive updated hardware including new kitchens, improved plumbing, electrical services and increased seating capacity.
The renovated Perry will have three kitchens: a traditional, Southern-style kitchen similar to the Comfort option currently offered, a produce section with vegan options, a salad bar and a grill and barbecue section complete with a smoker, chargrill and griddles.
Meals at Perry will no longer be all-you-can-eat. Instead of swiping a block meal at the door, students will use their block meal at each individual kitchen. Each kitchen will offer “single-serve meals” that will include an entrée and side dishes in larger portions than what is currently offered.
Jankowski said Perry Cafeteria’s kitchens are currently designed for a more traditional cafeteria setting, where someone can grab a tray and go through the line. The new design will allow the kitchens to better adapt to changes in dining styles. By reducing the number of kitchens in the Perry from nine to three, the cafeteria will be able to offer better quality meals.
“I’m really excited that these chefs will have the opportunity to really get into the menu development and focus on things that are certainly going to set these kitchens apart from what we’re doing today,” Jankowski said.
Jankowski said that there will be a glass addition to Perry facing Lee Boulevard.
This addition will also include a social staircase and elevator connecting Perry, and will add about 70 seats. This will allow students and guests to visit multiple dining locations, including the ones on Lee Boulevard, without leaving the building.
“So, you could actually be in upstairs Perry and then go downstairs to State Fountain Bakery without ever leaving the building,” Jankowski said. “And so for us, I think it really connects to the two locations and really brings the building together as a whole.”
Daniel Zito, an architect for Tipton Associates working on the project, said there will also be a “rooftop dining terrace” on the north side of Perry that extends out from the upper floor, providing an additional 30 seats.
Zito said the project will transform Perry into a “campus living room.” The renovation will add study spaces, a student lounge and an outdoor seating area. Students will be able to use the Perry as a place to study or congregate with other students without using a block meal.
“Rather than eating being the only activity, dining in Perry Hall will be an activator for many student and even visitor activities,” Zito said. “Everyone will be welcome there. To meet this goal, specific design elements include new dining venues, expanded seating activities, and new entrances to make Perry Hall more accessible.”
While Perry is closed for renovations, Fresh Food Company will begin serving breakfast in the mornings in addition to lunch and dinner. Pre-packaged meals will be available to students all over campus at the POD or Maroon Market locations. MSU is planning to bring in four to six food trucks that will be set up in the plaza outside the YMCA Building. Another food truck will operate outside of Fresh Food Company. The food trucks will be open every day of the week.
Jankowski said MSU will be changing its food service offerings for people with food allergies. The upcoming wave of renovations will bring a new self-contained kitchen for students with specific dietary needs to Fresh Food Company.
Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt said that the renovations are about making the Perry more relevant to students today.
“I think we’ve tried really hard throughout this whole process to take the feedback that students have been giving us over time and to try to adapt to what’s really just a more current way of eating,” Hyatt said.
Hyatt said the renovations are coming in response to MSU’s growing student body and student feedback. The goal is for students to be able to use Perry Cafeteria for more than just dining.
“We think of the Union as the living room of campus. Well, maybe Perry’s gonna be like the den and a space that students really can utilize on a much more regular basis than they did when it was only seen as a cafeteria,” Hyatt said.
The renovations to Perry will begin in May 2024. Perry will be closed for the entire 2024-2025 school year. It is expected to reopen at the start of the 2025 school year.
Expansion coming to dining options along Lee Boulevard
The glass expansion of Perry towards Lee Boulevard will provide refreshed spaces for dining. Subway will be joining a new sushi and noodle restaurant in the building that is currently the Student Media Center and the University Florist. State Fountain Bakery will reclaim its historic home where Subway is currently located, and Moe’s Southwest Grill will be receiving a renewed space.
According to Zito, this glass addition will allow for the original architecture of Perry to still be visible. It will also allow for the State Fountain Bakery and other locations within it to be visible and to advertise themselves without having to add signs that distract from the architecture of the building.
Jankowski said that moving restaurants to other locations, such as Subway into the Student Media Center, will provide more opportunities to improve the dining experience.
“By relocating it to the Media Center, we can add over 70 additional seats for students, providing a more spacious and comfortable dining plan,” Jankowski said. “Additionally, this allows us to expand the menu and update Subway’s branding to better cater to the preferences of our student community.”
A new sushi restaurant will take the place of the University Florist at 100 Lee Blvd. Jankowski said the plan was based on the positive response to sushi in POD markets.
“We received a lot of positive feedback about the sushi offerings in the POD markets,” Jankowski said. “We saw an opportunity to further enhance this program and provide even more variety to our students.”
Jankowski mentioned that the new restaurant, as well as the PODs, will allow for a greater variety of options to be available for hungry customers.
“With the addition of the restaurant, we will be able to do the grab-and-go still,” Jankowski said. “We’ll also be able to expand the menu, you get some freshly made poke bowls, broth bowls with ramen, and udon soup.”
Zito said the Subway and sushi restaurant project will begin in January 2024 and that the goal is to have these locations fully operating before The Marketplace at Perry is shut down for construction in May 2024.
Zito said the current dining options struggle to support students’ tastes.
“Typically, things need to be refreshed,” Zito said. “Whether it be by the brands, or just student tastes. We like something and then a few years later, it starts to get old.”
Jankowski hopes the new dining plan will benefit both businesses and the customers.
“Our goal is to create a vibrant dining neighborhood,” Jankowski said. “This will allow students and the community to easily move between these locations, fostering a sense of community and shared space for everyone to enjoy.”
State Fountain Bakery, Starbucks to relocate
With the Perry renovation, Starbucks will be moving to the second-floor addition to the south side of Perry, near Montgomery Hall, and will be similar to a free-floating coffee kiosk you may find in an airport. Next to Starbucks will be a designated quiet space that can be reserved for group study or presentations.
“And then it’ll have seating around it. Some of it will be just regular cafe tables, some of it will be soft seating,” Zito said.
Hyatt said the new Starbucks location, along with all other aspects of the plan, will be better equipped to handle the growing student population.
“The new Starbucks location will allow for a much more expansive fulfillment area and more opportunities for the equipment that’s needed to produce drinks and food items,” Hyatt said. “And of course, a lot more seating will be available for people who are coming in to get their drinks, etc.”
The current Starbucks location will continue operating until the new location is completed within the Perry renovation. Then, that area will be expanded to provide more space for students, one of the overarching goals of the new plan.
Jankowski said another key objective for the dining plan is to return State Fountain Bakery to its historic home, the space currently occupied by Subway. The bakery was moved to its current location in the Colvard Student Union in 2015.
“The main focus right now for me is to just get it back to its original location – make it a destination for students. So, you have a strong coffee program, pastries, the hot sandwiches, you know,” Jankowski said. “A long-term goal for us is to make it a destination point for the community of Starkville and then also for, during home games, have alumni come and be able to come in before the game and have a hot sandwich or a cup of coffee.”
Kathleen Olivieri, an MSU alumna and lecturer within Bagley College of Engineering, has fond memories of State Fountain’s original home and is excited about it being relocated back. She described it as a magical and beloved meeting place for both students and alumni.
“It was an everyday occurrence to walk in there and the faculty in there not being able to get a table because it was so busy,” Olivieri said. “There was something really special about that location. I don’t know if it was because you could smell the bakery and the baked goods, or if it was the people behind the counter because you got to know them, or if it was the location. It was just all wrapped up in something really special for Mississippi State.”
During construction of the new State Fountain Bakery, the Union location will close except to fulfill catering orders. Then, it will be repurposed as a “Perry-to-go” location to continue serving students block meals while Perry is under construction. Once the Perry renovations are completed, it will become a new space for event services.
Hyatt said the project will transform the student dining experience across campus.
“This is certainly in response to feedback from students about their desires related to dining, and then to help meet the needs of our growing student population,” Hyatt said.
Hyatt said the master dining plan is broken into 5-year planning cycles. Once the Perry renovations are completed, changes to the Colvard Student Union will be designed.

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