Georgia Tech hosts a grand opening party that cooks up something special, beginning with a popular campus competition
By Selena Fragassi
When Georgia Institute of Technology has a new location to open, they celebrate it big. Such was the case in April when the school feted the opening of their new Highland Bakery dining venue, a casual, local staple that rounds out the dining options onsite.
“When we have a grand opening on campus, we institute a three-tiered approach that includes a ribbon cutting ceremony, day-of themed events and a campus-wide competition to build the excitement beforehand,” says Dori Martin, area marketing coordinator for Sodexo Campus Services. For this occasion, the Atlanta-based school was inspired by their reputation as a Technology leader to develop a “sandwich engineering competition” that asked students, faculty and staff to develop a recipe for a new sandwich that would appear on Highland’s menu and net the winning “chef” the grand prize of an iPad mini.
“We created an online submission form through SurveyGizmo that the Georgia Tech community could fill out easily,” says Martin, noting that the competition was marketed via a large e-mail blast, on social media and on all plasma TVs across campus. To participate, contestants had to include a recipe, nutritional information and a picture of the sandwich. In total the school’s planning committee received 42 entries, of which eight moved on to the final judging round, which was overseen by employees in dining services and members of the bakery. “We coordinated a tasting for the judges where we assembled all of the eight finalist recipes, and the judges were able to taste and rate each one to determine our winner.”
The chosen one was named the Freshman Hill Grill, a chicken breast Panini on ciabatta bread with arugula, goat cheese, fig preserves, balsamic glaze and bay leaves. “Initially part of the prize was to include the sandwich on the Highland menu as a 30-day limited offering,” says Martin, “but because of its popularity, it’s now a permanent item.”
In addition to the main event, the grand opening festivities also offered a photo op ribbon and cake cutting ceremony, a DJ and a plethora of themed activities planned by Martin and her team—among them, blind cupcake decorating, cupcake corn hole and bagel bocce. “The blind cupcake decorating was pretty hilarious. Everybody had blindfolds on with sprinkles and frosting in front of them; the goal was to decorate the tops of the cupcakes, but they often missed the mark.” For the corn hole game, Martin had cupcake-shaped bags created while bagel bocce instituted six different looking bagels and one mini bagel for the target. Contestants took home Highland Bakery T-shirts and cups as their prize for participating.
The grand opening event was not only popular for the school’s community but also attracted off campus individuals, too. “Coca-Cola is across the street from us and CNN is nearby, and they often come to take part in our large-scale events like this,” Martin says, noting the benefit of providing an early introduction to the venue: “We have meeting space in that location open to outside businesses.” The high-tech boardroom includes Wi-Fi, flat screen televisions, teleconferencing and seating for nearly 20 people, plus the option to have catering provided by the bakery. “Anyone on campus, including visitors and conference groups, is welcome to enjoy the bakery,” Martin says, and maybe choose that Freshman Hill Grill, too. Like the sandwich, the Highland Bakery is here to stay at Georgia Tech—and if the grand opening party is any indication, it will be a popular choice for years to come.