Evolution of the Oak Room: Recent Events

Spring 1997: Calling the restaurant "old, tired, and mediocre," Jim Wulforst, director of dining services, announces a menu and atmosphere overhaul. Wulforst considers changing to a buffet-style format.

Fall 1997: Oak Room "reopens" under the guidance of Bill Salerno, who focused on improving the quality of service and adding "new" menu items--gourmet burgers and additional pasta dishes.

Spring 2000: Duke dining services plans to close Oak Room citing diminishing customers and sales. A DSG-sponsored student referendum overwhelmingly supports the possibility of privatizing the Oak Room space into a Papa's Grill or 411 West-type restaurant.

Fall 2000: After concerns from faculty and alumni about the potential loss of history, the Oak Room "reopens." Although the new menu remains relatively unchanged, Wulforst promises massive renovation and improvement.

August 2001: ARAMARK hires Pop's and Brightleaf 905 restauranteur Maggie Radzwiller as the Oak Room's new manager. Wulforst promises the change "will bring [the Oak Room] to the level everyone's wanted without having to privatize it."

October 2001: The Oak Room reopens with a more sophisticated look. The "new" Oak Room features a wine bar, extended hours, and increased prices. The menu features a limited number of entrZes made from scratch, such as fresh mussels and seared ahi tuna.

November 2001: Oak Room patronage declines significantly, as students complain about the higher prices and limited menu. The restaurant introduces a new menu, still small but in accordance with Radzwiller's plan of rotating three different menus each semester.

December 2001: ARAMARK fires Radzwiller, promising an increased menu with lower prices for the Spring semester. Wulforst admits, "We were convinced we could really bring a Pop's or Nana's menu to Duke. It didn't work."

January 2002: The Oak Room "reopens." Gourmet burgers and Italian pasta dishes regain their dominant position.


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