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Aramark study offers suggestions for dining

USF needs a new dining locations near the engineering and health sciences buildings, meal plans with more flex bucks and less meals, and a greater variety of dining options in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center, according to a study presented Monday by Aramark Food Service, the company that provides USF’s food vendors.

The results of a market assessment confirmed a lot of what those who know food service at USF already knew.

“I think we’ve had a pretty good hold on where the needs are and the marketing assessment puts a pretty good pinpoint on it,” Director of Auxiliary Services Jeff Mack said.

Aramark – which runs the Tampa Room in the Marshall Center, Burger King, Starbucks and some smaller food-vending locations around campus – surveyed more than 520 students, interviewed more than 50 faculty, staff and students in focus groups, and interviewed 10 University officials in the assessment.

The study also found that students want better communication about dining specials, and Italian, Mexican, home-style and sushi are the most favored food options.

The company made a series of recommendations to implement from this year until 2011 that address the needs outlined in the assessment.

“These are just ideas at this point,” Mack said. “We’re just trying to stay ahead of the game.”

For summer 2007, the assessment recommends changing the Fresh Market Smoothies vendor in the Health Science Café into one that provides made-to-order sandwiches and soup.

For the new student union, opening in fall 2008, it backs the following vendors: Jamba Juice; Bene Pizza and Pasta or Sbarro’s; Panda Express or another sushi vendor; Chili’s Too or a local sports grill concept; Taco Bell; Chick-fil-A; Einstein Bros. Bagels and a Montague’s or deli concept.

In fall 2008, opening for USF Health a Camille’s Sidewalk Café, a vendor similar to Panera Bread, and expanding the menu for Bene Pizza in the Marshall Center are suggested.

For fall 2009 as part of the opening of the Magnolia II residence hall, it recommends a 350-seat dining facility and vendors offering different choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

For fall 2010, a brand-name vendor in a stand-alone building for the engineering quad area is endorsed.

For fall 2011, the assessment recommends an overhaul of the Fresh Food Company at Argos.

Throughout the year, Aramark conducts two dining-style surveys, reads and responds to online comments about its food service, and meets with representatives from the Residence Hall Association to hear suggestions.

The need for more vendors in the engineering area came up often, so no one was taken by surprise when the assessment said it was needed, said David Brickhouse, director of the Department of Government Relations and Legislative Advocacy for Student Government.

Brickhouse, who also served as a member of the RHA in the past, said knowing about the need and finding the resources to meet it are two different things.

“We know it,” Brickhouse said. “The key is where will you build it, where will they let you build it and how will it affect the Master Plan.”

The only dining facility close to the engineering building is the Express Shop, a small store offering sandwiches, snacks and coffee.

Aramark’s contract with the University began in 2002 and runs out in August, at which time USF has the option to extend its contract another five years. The last time an assessment of food service was conducted was in 2002 before Aramark was contracted. Aramark conducted the survey as a service to USF at no additional fee, said Mack, who added that the University will consider the recommendations and decide on a plan of action later.

“We as a University are going to have to get together and set our priorities,” Mack said. “After that point. we’ll have to come back and see what can be done and where will the money come from to do it.”