State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Café Laura Undergoing $1.2 Million Renovations

by on August 08, 2014 6:00 AM

Café Laura, the student-run restaurant at Penn State, is getting a facelift that comes with a $1.2 million price tag.

The grand opening for the new-and-improved eatery, which has been in the works since renovations began April 25, is set for September 8.

The on-campus restaurant, located in the Mateer Building, trains Penn State Hospitality Management students for future careers in the restaurant industry, with students planning, marketing and preparing meals as well as serving customers.

"There's nothing quite like it in the State College area," says John O'Neil, director of the School of Hospitality Management. "Patrons can be a part of the education of our students training to be future hospitality industry leaders. I can promise our guests that they'll have a memorable experience.

Some of the changes are designed to give the restaurant fresh look, such as new carpets and chairs, while others are to enhance the educational mission of Café Laura.

O'Neil says the 20-year-old facility was gutted down to its frame. The walls, floors, ceiling, fixtures, equipment, window treatments and sound system are brand new.

“We have two goals for the design,” says Scott King, manager of Café Laura. “We want to increase the value of the education the students receive, as well as provide the University with a successful venue for lunch and dinner.”

The new Café Laura will include a “front of the house” cooking area, where lunch menus will boast street-food-inspired items and dinner customers can watch as meals are prepared. The construction plans include a new grill and deli, pizza and salad stations and an upgraded Pepsi service area.

Thanks to a donation from MICROS Systems, Inc., there will also be new wall-mounted computers, state-of-the-art registers with wireless technology and three portable tablets. Customers will have access to free, high-speed Internet.

O'Neil says they're adding a new Starbucks Espresso Bar, chopped salad station and grab & go area. There will also be a new action station, so diners can watch students training in Café Laura.

"I think these changes will make Café Laura truly different from other areas on campus,” King says. “This is a lunch place where you can socialize, while for dinner we offer great meals at a low price.”

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Jessica Tully recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in journalism and political science. She is a frequent contributor to and has also reported for USA TODAY, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Onward State and The Daily Collegian.
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