Newly renovated Joan Bice Underwood Tearoom allows for students to gain real experience


Taylor Shaw/Iowa State Daily

Faculty members (left to right) Brent Kreider, Borzoo Bonakarpour, Claus Kadelka, and Ymou Qiu enjoying lunch at the Joan Bice Underwood Tearoom in MacKay Hall on Sept. 19.

Laurel Glynn

Technology from the 1920s and a congested workspace is less than ideal for hospitality and event management majors to learn how to operate in a modern restaurant.

Now that MacKay Hall’s Joan Bice Underwood Tearoom has been updated, these are problems of the past.

The tearoom is a major component to the Quantity Food Production and Service Management Experience lab, taught by Katherine Ginapp and John Kramer.

“It’s all students running it,” said Lydia Anderson, sophomore student ambassador of the College of Human Sciences. “They can actually have experience working in their major before they go out in the real world.”

Most of the renovations have been dedicated to modernizing the tearoom so the students are used to working in the conditions they would see beyond the university, Ginapp said.

The updates give students more space to operate within the restaurant itself and allow customers to enter and exit more smoothly in the front of house.

They have also installed a new system called “Touch Bistro,” which allows customers to make payments at the table by using their credit or debit cards, rather than at the counter.

New dishes have been added to the menu, but the tearoom is planning to keep some old favorites to help keep attracting customers.

Additionally, new televisions have been added in the dining room to increase the space’s functionality outside of class.

Although there are more updates to be made, including online carry out orders, the College of Human Sciences is already seeing their vision for the tearoom come alive. However, an endeavor like this did not come without its setbacks.

“There were quite a few challenges,” Ginapp said. “It’s an entirely new concept than it was before.”

The process of renovating a restaurant requires time and collaboration, and even when supplies came late and dates were pushed back, Ginapp and Kramer said they were never without help.

They got input from committee members and “took one problem at a time.”

The goal was always to give students the experience they need to be successful outside of the tearoom, and the administrators said they did not lose sight of that.

“We are still meeting the learning objectives for the students and making sure they are still getting the management experience in the course,” Ginapp said.

Having customers gives the students real-life experience, and with the new updates, the tearoom is impacting the future of the restaurant industry, Anderson said.