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A campus dining alternative

More room, more food options and a quiet atmosphere can be found at the cafe located on the third floor of the USF Bookstore.

“Many of the people that come up here have said to me that it feels like they are not on campus anymore,” said Grace McQueen, the Bookstore’s general manager. “It is such a unique space.” Jessica Metellus, a freshman majoring in psychology, comes to the cafe, which also features a Starbucks, usually before and between classes and after work. She didn’t know about it before she happened to notice a sign downstairs. Metellus enjoys the food and calm atmosphere the cafe has to offer.

The USF Bookstore Cafe has been open since last May and is operated by Barnes & Noble. According to McQueen, the cafe hasn’t been promoted much.

“We have done some soft marketing, but marketing on campus is pretty expensive, and it is difficult sometimes to figure out how to reach the students,” she said. “The biggest thing that we promoted this year was the textbook reservation program that the Bookstore sponsored. We probably had 4,000 students take part in the textbook reservation program, and we asked all of them to come up here and pick up their books.”

The textbook reservation idea significantly increased traffic, and customers are shifting away from staff and faculty to more students, McQueen said.

“One of the reasons students didn’t come before was because we didn’t take their flex bucks,” she said. “Now I am not sure if it matters that much that we don’t (accept flex bucks). Any student who doesn’t have the meal plan, flex bucks doesn’t mean a thing.”

McQueen also said there was a fair amount of discussion when Barnes & Noble decided that they were going to do the renovation on the third level for a cafe.

“Aramark has an exclusive contract with USF to serve food on campus,” McQueen said. “When Barnes & Noble signed a contract to operate the store and put a cafe in it, it opened up a whole discussion between Aramark and Barnes & Noble about who was going to run the cafe.”

As store manager, McQueen wanted to have her own Barnes & Noble employees. She objected from the beginning that Aramark run the cafe. With her own employees, she could assure that the level of service provided was to the standard set by the entire store.

“If Aramark was in here running the cafe, I wouldn’t have any ability to impact whether or not they were serving the customers quickly or the quality of the products,” she said.Selkys Soriano, a junior majoring in social work, comes to the cafe to get a break from campus life.

“It is a nice atmosphere,” she said. “It is quiet, and I like the music.” Soriano used to work there, and she was a little surprised that not many students have heard about it.

“I guess many students go to the one in the library, but this is nice because it is near the (Phyllis P.) Marshall Center,” she said.

The cafe is open the same hours as the bookstore – Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It has a broader menu than the Starbucks in the library, including soups, salads and sandwiches.

According to McQueen, it has been pretty busy in the cafe since the beginning of the fall.

“Last year there weren’t a lot of students here, there were more faculty and staff members,” she said. “But this year many more students have come.”