Steven Mello, a registered and licensed dietitian, succeeds Kathleen Gianquitti, who served as the director of Dining Services for 23 years before stepping down at the end of September.
Mello has been with URI Dining Services since 1990, serving in a variety of management capacities. The Dining Services operation feeds 10,000 individuals daily. Most of them are students. It operates two main dining halls, 10 retail outlets, one catering operation, a warehouse and a satellite center that processes meal plans and identification cards for the entire campus. He manages 160 permanent employees and 350 student employees.
“I am honored and excited to be following in Kathy’s footsteps,” Mello said. “She was a great mentor, and she was my instructor in my food service management class at URI.”
Serving as an associate administrator for the past 13 years, Mello was responsible for personnel management and technology development. A 1985 URI graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree with high distinction in food science and nutrition, he completed a dietetic internship at Rhode Island Hospital in 1986.
The Johnston resident takes over an operation that is constantly evolving to satisfy the changing appetites and tastes of students.
“There are so many things happening in the industry that it’s a challenge to keep up,” Mello said. “Sustainability is a new and very important focus of campus dining services. We eliminated trays in our main dining halls, and that has led to two great outcomes—less water being used in our dishwashing operations and less waste because students take less food to their tables. In terms of food offerings, we are always looking at monotony breakers. So on Labor Day weekend we opened Butterfield Dining Hall for a steak fry.”
He said all students at freshmen orientation eat at the new Hope Commons, and so they naturally go there when classes open. “We wanted to make sure students knew what we offered at Butterfield too,” Mello said.
Mello also recognizes that even though Dining Services offers a wide array of food choices, from kosher to vegan, students sometimes want different items. “It’s like home where you might eat great each day, but you need a change of pace once in a while, so you go out to eat.
“That’s why Dining Services offers the Ram Account, a debit option that allows 19 businesses in the Kingston Emporium and surrounding community to provide additional variety to our students,” Mello said.
And while trying to respond to student tastes can be challenging, he was well prepared before joining the URI team in 1990. After earning an associate’s degree in 1980 at Johnson & Wales University as a diet technician, he served as a diet technician and purchasing dietitian at Rhode Island Hospital from 1980 to 1987, as chief dietitian at Notre Dame Hospital in Central Falls from 1988 to 1989, and as clinical dietitian at The Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island in Pawtucket.
Mello said he gained great experience in the hospitals, but he said coming back to work at his alma mater was like a dream come true. “I knew URI would be a place where I could sharpen my skills, and Kathy was great about making sure I grew through challenging assignments. Being a URI graduate, I am very proud of the work we do. When I was a student, I couldn’t live on campus because my family couldn’t afford it. Now I am making up for it.
“We have a great staff here, and many have a great rapport with the students,” Mello said. “They pride themselves on getting to know the students by name.”
Steve Mello, interim director of URI Dining Services. URI Department of Communications and Marketing photo by Michael Salerno.