Students use Tea Room as learning tool


Richard Martinez / Iowa State Daily

Hannah Nicholson, junior in dietetics, assists in plating meals for the lunch service in the Joan Bice Underwood Tearoom. The Tearoom, located in MacKay Hall, is a academic laboratory in the setting of a student run restaurant. Its goal is to provide customers with a full dining experience while simultaneously testing the skills of students enrolled in the Tearoom’s subsequent course.

Lani Tons

The Joan Bice Underwood Tea Room is a sit down, reservation-based restaurant located in 23 MacKay Hall.

The tea room is the service experience laboratory for juniors and seniors enrolled in Hotel Restaurant & Institution Managment 380, the Quantity Food Production and Service Management course.

John Kramer, senior lecturer in apparel, events and hospitality management is the coordinator of the tea room and is the lecturer for the course itself.

“We’re trying to teach students to be leaders, [and] to manage people,” Kramer said.

Tess Dusenberry, a senior in hospitality management, recognizes the potential that students can gain from the tea room.

“It is a teaching lab, so each day in the lab, we are building our experience, applying the knowledge that we learn in lecture and developing new skills that will benefit us after graduation,” Dusenberry said.

There are three sections of the three-hour lab where the tea room is available, including lunch on Tuesday through Friday and dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

This three-hour lab consists of students preparing, serving and cleaning. The students arrive to the lab almost two hours before operation hours where they make everything from scratch, preparing the food for service.

New recipes and creations are not discouraged at the tea room, either.

“If we want to do a new recipe, we standardize a new recipe,” Kramer said.

Students are able to sample their foods, a time they call the family meal.

“The friendships and bonds I created with my other lab members is one that I won’t forget,” Dusenberry said.

The menu and students’ rotations are constantly changing. To expand the students’ experiences and knowledge, the tea room offers them a chance to stay on their toes with new opportunities in and out of the kitchen.

Students are on rotations of various positions in the restaurant, too. This gives motivation and challenges for students.

“It’s brand new every time,” Kramer said.

A student will be assigned a number that corresponds with a position and will go down the list for each lab, never repeating a position for the rest of the semester.

“It’s a teaching laboratory, so it’s educational. If it’s the same every day, it would be easier for us because we’d have a lot of the same stuff day after day,” Kramer said.

By changing up the roles and menus, the students and instructors get a better understanding of how they would handle a real life situation and plan for their days ahead.

“I learned a variety of skills I will take with me as I enter the workforce,” Dusenberry said. “You will not find a job in which you can rotate each day to a new position. This experience has not only helped me gain knowledge at each position, but has also helped me gain insight as to my own personal strengths and weaknesses.”

Students will undergo the role of a manager during their semester, as well. This includes planning, staffing to make sure people are in the right spots and organizing that meal.

“The manager does all the planning, and they decide which employees will work on products and what they’re going to do for that product,” Kramer said.

Dusenberry used the role as a manager to learn skills relating to her future plan to be an events coordinator.

“As manager [in both the kitchen and front of the house], I got experience in managing others, problem-solving, planning and forecasting meals, planning the work schedule, recipe costing, assigning tasks and overall experiencing all that goes into managing,” Dusenberry said.

The meal is served to the customers at their tables, but there is a takeout option available, too.

“We box up the meal for the them to take it to go,” Kramer said.

The price for the entire meal whether, whether takeout or dine-in, is $6.50.

“We try to keep [the cost] low so people will continue to eat here,” Kramer said.

For this price, the customer orders their choice of beverage — like milk, tea, or coffee — bread, entrée, side and dessert.

“We keep [the cost] low compared to other facilities around because the class is quantity food production, and we need customers, and we’re making it for bigger numbers,” Kramer said.

The tea room accepts CyCash, Dining Dollars, as well as the faculty charge plan.

“The tea room gave me experience with new challenges each day, learning to manage my peers, customer service and food safety and sanitation,” Dusenberry said.

For reservations at the tea room, call (515) 294-3330.