Dive into 'the eatery.' at ARU Cambridge - The complete transformation of the restaurant space, now featuring an all new commercial kitchen, deli and Boxpark-style operation.

Introducing ‘the eatery.’ – A major redevelopment of the F&B spaces at Anglia Ruskin University’s Cambridge Campus.

  • All new 160-seater restaurant and café operation at Cambridge
  • New Boxpark-style modular F&B operation for queue-busting and student appeal


Ranked one of the top 40 universities in the UK with a ‘gold standard’ of education, Anglia Ruskin University is a collective of 4 separate campuses across Cambridge, Chelmsford, Peterborough and London.

Shortlisted for ‘University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education 2023 Awards, the ARU team went to the market to select a F&B design partner that would help the organisation in its aspiration to help its food offer become best-in-class at Cambridge and Chelmsford.


What we did

With ARU’s extremely popular £1 hot meal offer, the ARU team challenged ifse’s designers to improve speed of service, enhance efficiency with additional service points and improve the overall look and feel of the premises to make the offer more attractive to students, guests and visitors alike.

Our design team, spearheaded by Sally Medina, got to work on developing a solution to ARU’s needs. After numerous client workshops, ifse proposed a Boxpark-style solution to the space which involved transforming the existing space into modular pod operations whereby each pod features its own hot offer.

In fact constructed as a linear counter, the customer would be greeted by 3 different enclosed pod-like food offers which would have the ability to change daily through a central digital menu solution. The main F&B would be supported by a deli and coffee offer, supplemented by a bespoke self-pay micro-market solution for hot and chilled grab-and-go items, as well as out-of-hours service to students studying late at night.

The individual pods were designed with flexibility at the heart of the offer to allow the catering team to vary the menu. This was put to practice with our removable flexible hot ceran solution with retractable heat lamps designed onto the counter to display hot or ambient food to be on display.

Understanding that the space had to be adaptable to host dining, socialising and studying, the campus restaurants would now feature a mixture of furniture styles to accommodate all groups and types. Comfortable booth seating now lined the rear of the restaurant, complimented with high and low tables for traditional dining. High-capacity banquette seating and Wagamama-style benches were utilised for lunch rush periods.

With the goal of creating an inviting environment and nodding to the sustainability credentials of the university, copious amounts of vivid green foliage are built into the new dining areas, from suspended potted plants separating seating booths to a combination of artificial living walls, low-hanging greenery and various plants built into the wall divides.

The new design incorporated recycled wooden cladding to create a warm and sustainable ambience that perfectly complements its eco-friendly ethos, from the rustic tables and chairs to the reclaimed wood panelling on the walls.


ARU Cambridge – the eatery. 

Situated on the ground floor of the Helmore Building, our brand-new venue provides students with a wide range of food and drink to choose from, from hot coffees and freshly made breakfasts to warming lunches, grab-and-go options and so much more.

The recently developed eatery boasts a modern and inviting ambience, with three distinct servery areas for freshly cooked hot food, each fitted with adjustable bronze heat lamps to maintain service temperature. Copper and exposed bulb pendant lighting dangle from the ceilings, casting a warm and inviting glow over the spacious dining area.

A beaming neon ‘the Marketplace’ sign beckons diners toward a self-service grab-and-go section, where a convenient array of quick bites, hot beverages and soft drinks awaits. A ‘Deli Bar’ neon sign sits above the pristine end counter, where the aroma of freshly cooked breakfasts, delectable bakery items and indulgent sweet treats waft through the air.

Behind the scenes is a large commercial kitchen, the powerhouse of all the freshly cooked meals and baked products that you will find at the front of house. Complete with the latest cutting-edge catering equipment, including advanced Rational iCombi ovens, Electrolux Professional cooking and washing units, plus integrated extraction technology, our hygienic stainless steel and energy-efficient back-of-house is deliberately designed to optimise every aspect of food preparation.

All in all, ‘the eatery.’ harmoniously combines contemporary design elements with a diverse range of dining options, creating a welcoming and vibrant culinary hub for students and faculty alike.

The result

Opening to excited fanfare with the September in-take of fresh undergraduates, the space has received rave reviews from students, guests and visitors alike.

Adam Bristow, Commercial Director at ifse said the following about the refurbishment:

“The space is a testament to the vision of Susie Cullins and her fantastic catering team, looking to make the F&B offer the best in class.

It’s been a real partnership with ARU over the last 10 months to bring this space to life, ready in time for the September cohort. It’s been a pleasure to design and build this flagship space for ARU”.

Sally Medina, Creative Director added:

“The flexibility of the design of the new pods makes the space a truly fantastic refurbishment of ARU Food. The catering team already do a brilliant job, and we’ve now designed a space that can display the food perfectly.

By combining natural wood elements with bold and vibrant colours the space has been completely transformed into a modern, welcoming facility that will attract prospective students to the university”.