Two weeks ago, undergraduates received an eye-catching email. “Make $25 in 1 Hour for UD Student Focus Group,” it read.
Starving college students who read further learned that Aramark, the food provider at the University of Dallas, was looking for students to participate in a focus group aimed at discovering what the community is looking for in the future of retail dining.
Three focus groups were held on Oct. 31, and participants were promised $25 E-Gift Cards.
During the focus groups, the students learned that Aramark is considering adding new retail food options at UD.
“They showed us different options, and then asked us what we thought was important about retail dining, and then let us choose what we liked,” Reagan Miller, a freshman who attended the panel, said.
Although the students at the panel weren’t given a definite timeline of when the new dining options would come to fruition, they did get some insight into what it could be like.
John Bartee, another freshman who attended the panel, said, “The plan is to change the Rat to something else. They wouldn’t necessarily change the physical location of the Rathskeller, but they want to get a retail location offering food on campus.”
Bartee said that they they offered a few national chain options including Chick-fil-A, Subway, Which Wich and Flip Kitchen.
“They told us that if we got a national chain like that, we would only have one, and then we’d have some sort of grill with it to take the place of what the Rat does now,” Bartee said.
According to Miller, Aramark also offered the possibility of a company-created restaurant called Simple Spoon.
“[The proposal] had so many different options,” Miller said.
Bartee also seemed excited about this less conventional option. “The pictures they had showed different views of the space, and the location had an upscale modern vibe that I appreciated. Some of the amenities included a 24/7 Marketplace, a Chipotle-style Grill, an “Open Kitchen” that would offer sandwiches and burgers, a coffee shop, and even a bar. With this option, we would get many different options for food that we could use our declining balance on,” he said.
University students who are frustrated with the relatively early closing hours of the current dining options on campus might also see a change in dining hours. . According to Miller, “They’re looking to have extended if not 24/7 hours..”
“I know that I have issues sometimes when it’s 9 p.m. and I’m hungry while doing homework on campus … With this 24/7 marketplace, a 20-minute break from my homework to drive to a restaurant and back could become just a quick walk across campus to get a snack,” Bartee said.
Dr. John Plotts, Executive Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs, confirmed that new retail dining options are in the works.
He said in an email that he has been talking with Aramark for two years about the possibility of adding a retail dining option.
However, “no definite plans have yet been made. We are currently in the research phase trying to determine student preferences,” Plotts stated.
Plotts further corroborated that closing the Rat restaurant is under consideration. “We have been considering moving the bookstore downstairs in the Rat and placing the retail and more open social space where the bookstore is currently.”
According to Plotts, although no definitive decisions have been made, administrators plan on taking action soon. “If we can get plans made in time, the changes could take place this summer. If not, it would be the following summer,” Plotts said.