Dive into 'the Central.' at ARU Chelmsford - one of two modern and bright Boxpark-style modular developments the ifse team proudly delivered for Anglia Ruskin University.

Introducing ‘the Central.’ – A major redevelopment of the F&B spaces at Anglia Ruskin University’s Chelmsford campus.

  • All new 185-seater restaurant and coffee bar at ARU Chelmsford
  • 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 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 Chelmsford – the Central.

Anglia’s riverside Chelmsford campus is nestled within the University and Innovation Quarter of one of the UK’s ‘top ten places to live’, comprised of modern, striking buildings with state-of-the-art facilities, located just a 30-minute train journey from the centre of the capital city of London.

Based on the ground floor of the Lord Ashcroft Building at Chelmsford, ‘the Central.’ offers students a wide variety of breakfast, hot lunch and chilled options to choose from with an emphasis on healthy and sustainably sourced produce.

Our new dining experience seamlessly blends nature with modern design. Bathed in an abundance of natural lighting streaming in from the surrounding windows, the space is awash with a warm and inviting glow. The interior design features soft green and natural tones, creating an inviting and harmonious atmosphere.

Tiled wooden counters and cladding contribute to the sustainable and eco-friendly aesthetic of the space, providing a sense of authenticity and rustic charm. LED strip lighting underneath the counters brightens the area, adding a modern touch to the overall design.

Adjacent to the main dining area, an ‘In Coffee We Trust’ neon sign graces the barista area, where students and faculty can indulge in expertly crafted coffee beverages and freshly baked pastries.

Just upstairs from this brand-new offer, we created a clean separate work and dining lounge complete with fresh white walls and tables, transparent seating and vending machines offering coffee, soft drinks and snacks, lit above by even more natural lighting from the wide-spanning skylight.


The result

Opening to excited fanfare with the September intake 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”.