JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph’s dining facility reopened a year ago after a lengthy renovation program that transformed it into one of the models of the Air Force Materiel Command’s Food Transformation Initiative launched seven years ago.
Since its opening day Oct. 11, 2016, when some 600 diners entered its doors, the Wingman Café, as it is now known, continues to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in comparable numbers while accommodating a more diverse population than ever.
“Our numbers have not fallen since last October,” said Elizabeth Hunt, Wingman Café executive chef. “We’re really proud of that.”
In fact, the facility has attracted 146,000 diners since its reopening, compared with 25,000 in the 2014 fiscal year. Budget cuts had limited use of the JBSA-Randolph DFAC to Airmen in grades E-5 and below since 2013, but the renovation program gave the facility a fresh new look, the menu expanded with healthier choices and officials opened the DFAC to anyone who has access to the installation.
The one-year anniversary of the Wingman Café will not have the pageantry of its opening last year, but festivities are planned nonetheless.
“We’ll be having a cupcake celebration during lunch,” said Ammie Whaley, Wingman Café general manager. “We’ll have our normal menu, but the dining hall will be decorated and diners will receive a complimentary cupcake.”
Robert Murray, Wingman Café manager, attributed the dining facility’s success to the quality of its food and the service its employees provide.
“Our standards haven’t dropped; they remain consistent,” he said. “We want to make sure we maintain our customer base.”
The interaction between employees and diners is also a plus.
“Our employees enjoy making connections on a personal level,” Hunt said.
“Some of our staff know customers by name,” Whaley said. “It gives the facility a family feel.”
The Wingman Café attracts a cross-section of the JBSA-Randolph community: officers, enlisted members, DOD civilians, contractors, retirees and even some students from Randolph High School.
Active-duty members and civilians here for temporary duty also dine at the facility.
“They say it’s the best dining facility they’ve been to,” Hunt said.
Food choices are numerous, and most of the food is made from scratch, right in front of diners.
“There’s great variety, with a lot of good choices,” Hunt said. “A diner can eat here for 58 days without eating the same thing.”
A color-coded labeling system through the DOD’s Go for Green program guides diners to healthy food options. The labels provide detailed information on the nutritional value of food being served.
The Wingman Café serves three meals a day every day of the year, including holidays.
Breakfast is served 6-9 a.m. weekdays and 6:30-8:30 a.m. on weekends and holidays, lunch from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and dinner from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday-Sunday. The facility also offers a to-go section that is open 9:30-10:30 a.m. and 1:30-4:30 p.m. seven days a week.