The restaurant may be called Little Greek, but the president of the franchise and USF alumnus, Nick Vojnovic, is known to have a big heart.
Vojnovic has made it his mission to provide hot meals to USF students who are experiencing food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The university has supported my company so much, so I want to give back,” Vojnovic said. “When I saw an article about the Feed-A-Bull food pantry running short on food I said, ‘We can help that.’”
Led by Student Health Services and Feeding America Tampa Bay, the Feed-A-Bull food pantry is an initiative focused on alleviating food insecurity among USF students. Located in the Student Services building, the food pantry is now distributing donations in the breezeway, near the ID Card Center, while respecting social distancing guidelines.
The restaurant, located on Fowler Avenue, has distributed about 50 meals to students in need within the first two weeks of collaborating with the pantry, Vojnovic said.
The meals consist of Greek pitas, including ones with chicken or gyro meat, that can be ordered to a student’s preferences.
In partnership with Little Greek, Feed-A-Bull will send a list of students facing food insecurity to the restaurant chain. Once contacted, students will be able to pick up the hot meals two to three days per week at the restaurant, Vojnovic said.
Little Greek is also extending a BOGO offer to anyone affiliated with USF.
“Students and teachers get ‘buy one, get one free’ pitas and a side for curbside pickup or takeout,” said Katherine Shearouse, director of marketing and franchise support. “You just have to show USF ID and let the restaurant know you are affiliated with USF.”
While it may seem like Little Greek is doing financially well since Vojnovic is giving so much, the restaurant is suffering the same economic strain many others are.
The store hours have been cut to Monday-Friday from 11 a.m to 7 p.m. as opposed to its regular 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. hours Monday-Saturday.
“On average, all of our 43 stores are down 35 percent in sales,” he said. “Our Fowler store alone is down 80 percent in sales.”
Though hours have been cut and sales have decreased, Vojnovic said he is keeping all of his employees working and paid the same.
Shearouse said regardless of the pandemic, Vojnovic has always been known for giving back to the USF community.
“Nick has always been doing different things to help the students in general,” Shearouse said. “Now, more than ever, he sees the general need to help students get what they need foodwise.”
Vojnovic received his Master of Business Administration (M.B.A) from USF in 2012 and said he supports the Muma College of Business as much as he can. He’s donated money to the college, catered for events like “Back to School Day” and hosted spirit nights at his restaurant for USF organizations.
Recently, Vojnovic said he became immunocompromised because of a medical issue. This would put him in the “high risk” category if he ever contracted COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But he said the medical issue turned into the reason he’s giving to his community.
“I had a health scare last year, I had to get a stem cell transplant to treat a rare blood cancer called myelofibrosis,” Vojnovic said.
He said the staff at the Muma College of Business were there for him throughout the whole treatment process.
“While I was in the hospital, I received tremendous emotional support from Muma College Dean [Moez] Limayem, the USF staff and the Executive Advisory [Council] were checking on me throughout my stay and recovery,” Vojnovic said.
Vojnovic said he was grateful for their kindness and wanted to return the favor.
As much as he’s done already, he hasn’t been able to give back as much as he wanted because of the financial issues Little Greek is facing.
“We would like to do more, but we can only do so much,” Vojnovic said.
Vojnovic said that Little Greek can sustain giving out free meals for about two months, but if the pandemic continues after that then it’ll become a serious challenge.
Another project Vojnovic is working on is helping feed the homeless in the county through Hillsborough Hopes. He had to create a GoFundMe page to fund this project because of the restaurant’s tight financial situation.
Through the program, customers can give money to the GoFundMe and proceeds will pay for hot meals for the homeless in need. In addition, the BOGO deal also allows people to give their free pita meal to Hillsborough Hopes.
Vojnovic said he wants Little Greek to continue to give to the community for as long as possible and would be happy to continue providing resources to those in need after the pandemic ends.
“It is a tough time, but we want to help any USF person who needs it, whether it be a student, faculty or alumni.”