At the heart of many Greek houses is an elegant dining room. It’s usually the biggest room in the plan, and often, the room serves as a showpiece, in plain view when members and guests walk through the front door. The dining room is also a place for students to congregate. In addition to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it’s where many go to refuel during study breaks or to get a late-night snack after a campus party.

So, it would stand to reason that any good dining room design must follow certain parameters, but sometimes those requirements can seem divergent. As with many aspects of Greek housing design, there is an inherent tension between form and function, and the dining room is no different. That’s why Krittenbrink Architecture follows design fundamentals it refers to as the three levels of food service:

  • the kitchen,
  • the serving room and
  • the dining room.

Separately, each fulfills a specific function. Together, they blend to fulfill a broad variety of purposes that allow a house to function efficiently and comfortably without compromising the formal appearance that distinguishes the house’s unique character.

“In dining room design, presentation is important,” said Mark Krittenbrink, president of Krittenbrink Architecture. “It will be visible from the foyer, so you don’t want a steam table or a salad bar on the side of the dining room. You don’t want a milk machine there nor a table full of dishes.”

While the dining room is the star of the show, the serving room might be considered the workhorse, second only to the kitchen in utility and functionality. Aside from its obvious role of connecting food preparation to food delivery, the serving room is a utility area that can draw heavy use from students when the kitchen is not open.

“In most houses, food can be in demand any time of day, seven days a week,” Krittenbrink says. “The demand for food when kitchens are closed has led to food security issues. Hungry members looking for snacks let themselves into kitchens, take food, and leave cooks stranded when they arrive to begin meal preparations the following day.” Many houses lock their kitchens and secure their food to solve that problem. But, what about the students? The serving area is becoming the solution.

Some houses use the serving room to set up “bistros” or “24/7 kitchens” with a refrigerator and space for students to prepare food. Other houses stock serving room tables with granola bars, fruit, chips, and other healthy snacks to help see members through late-night study sessions. Snack tables are more common in sororities than they are in fraternity houses where the appetites of young men can easily overwhelm a snack table, no matter how well-stocked it might be. Aside from snack tables and bistros, the serving room is home to the continental breakfast, set out each day for students rushing out for morning classes, as well as for that staple of contemporary life, the ice machine.

So, within the art of Greek housing design, there is a continuing effort to achieve harmony between form and function to meet the unique demands of college life. Unsung and underappreciated, the serving room is the secret sauce to many of the most successful dining rooms. Out of view, it does so much of the work while stepping aside to let the magnificent dining room enjoy the glory.