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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 7, 2004

Hancher/IMU Collaboration Brings Variety To Hancher Cafe

Many regulars at the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium were surprised this fall when they arrived early at the opening events and found the Hancher Cafe stocked not only with the elegant desserts and beverages they had come to expect, but also a wide enough variety of food items to make a light supper possible.

The expanded menu is the result of a new collaboration between Hancher and the Iowa Memorial Union Food Service. IMU Food Service is now in charge of Hancher Cafe offerings in conjunction with performance events, and complete dinners are available by advance reservation before four performance events this season.

"We were ready for a change in order to enhance the quality of the experience of coming to Hancher, plus we want to accommodate the busy lives of people today," explains Charles Swanson, Hancher's executive director. "The new arrangement gives them the ability to leave work and come directly to Hancher and not have to worry about preparing dinner. Now there is always the opportunity for a light supper in the new cafe. We wanted to partner with the IMU Food Services because they offer quality products and we have also worked with them often in the past."

Greg Black, director of the IMU Food Service, agrees that the Hancher/IMU partnership was a natural fit: "I have always been interested in the performing arts and jumped at the opportunity to be a part of Hancher, providing foods and beverages to complement the many diverse performances held there each year. We have worked with the Hancher staff and catered many parties and events there for years so working there already felt comfortable.

"Guest comments have been positive and supportive with the expanded menu offerings, which now provide an option for a light dinner in addition to many outstanding sweets and confections made fresh daily. As we become more familiar with the different 'tastes' of each type of audience, we will be providing even more variety of ethnic and cultural foods that reflect individual performances."

A key to the collaboration was the creation of a new position focused on the IMU Food Service's Hancher operation. Morgan Burns, the new manager of the Hancher Cafe, has a decade of food-service experience in the United States and Spain.

"Things are going very well, and they get better with every show," she says. "The student staff that works here is just amazing. They all really enjoy the public, and that shows in their interactions with everyone that comes through. I couldn't ask for a more enthusiastic group of students to work with."

Burns corroborates the positive comments of the Hancher audiences in response to the expanded menu: "We offer everything from sushi to chocolate cake. The diversity in the menu means that almost anyone can find something they like. It all comes from IMU catering, which means that the quality of the food is some of the best anyone can find in this area."

Because the original design of the auditorium did not include a food-service capacity, serving food in Hancher has always been a challenge. What is now the Hancher Cafe was originally merely a lobby for the balcony, with minimal auxiliary space.

Hancher Cafe has always operated out of one tiny room, a former utility closet crammed with coolers, dishwashers and supplies. Burns says the new arrangement has made the cramped quarters less of an obstacle.

"It is a pretty big space reliever," she says. "All of the baking and food prep can be done at the IMU, and then brought over here in bulk, and I do the presentation for the buffet. The space is still cramped, but we've adjusted pretty nicely!"

Planning for special events in Hancher that take advantage of the new Hancher/IMU partnership may be arranged by contacting Swanson at 319-335-1133 or

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,

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