LCCC Dining Services reinvents itself
Restaurant quality food isn’t what you would expect from a college. But it isn’t a surprise for Shawn Eby, Laramie County Community College’s director of Dining Services.
In 2021, after years of having a vendor run its dining services, the college decided to move the service in-house instead and hired Shawn to lead the charge. And in just a few short months, he’s reinvigorated dining at LCCC.
Shawn says the biggest change is focusing on the experience instead of the bottom-line. As part of that, he’s put in place a seven-week menu rotation instead of using the two-week rotation the college previously had in place.
He’s also worked hard to make the dining hall a destination for fun as well as food. Bingo nights and theme days are now regular fixtures each month, with Smokehouse Day the clear favorite. Shawn purchased a professional smoker that sits just outside the dining hall where his team creates a variety of barbecue feasts regularly. One month they may serve ribs and brisket and another barbecue chicken and collard greens. Whatever is on the menu for Smokehouse Day will pack the hall.
The newest event for the dining hall was a kitchen takeover by Los Conejos, a popular local food truck that has been serving the Cheyenne community since 2020. The owners oversaw as their food took over the dining hall for one day. It’s something that hadn’t been done before at LCCC, but that’s the way Shawn likes it.
“I really like to think outside of the box and test to see what will work for our customers,” Shawn says.
His changes are from a playbook three decades in the making. When Shawn came to campus, he brought with him more than 30 years of experience working in the restaurant industry. As the founder of Goalz Restaurant Group, he has started 17 restaurants.
“I credit my success in the previous endeavors to my people-first approach to leadership,” he says. “Whether working with colleagues on strategic plans, working alongside our front-line staff during a site visit, or delivering on our promises to our customers, I made sure that people were central to all that we do.”
And he’s keeping people—both customer and employee—in focus at LCCC. He credits the dining hall’s success to his team and to LCCC in general.
Nicole Sagner, an LCCC student, says the difference from last year to this year has been night and day.
“The diversity and quality of food is exceptional. The staff is incredibly friendly and accommodating, and the environment makes the cafeteria one of the students’ favorite places to be,” she says.
Now the next step is bringing that flavor to the masses. Shawn’s goal is to make the LCCC dining hall a destination spot for working lunches, date nights and brunch on the weekend—not just for students, but the whole Cheyenne community.
Even without a student discount, the food is affordable. For instance, the public can walk in and buy an all-you-can-eat lunch or take it to go for less than the cost of most restaurants. But the public can also buy meals in a block that bring the cost down even more.