Because of student demand, new dining options will be available on campus starting in the fall, namely the opening of a Panda Express to replace the Burger Bytes restaurant in the Student Center.
“The operator [of Burger Bytes] came to us and said they really could not sustain the operation and asked if they could close,” said Rich Steele, Senior Director of Auxiliary Services. “We found out…that burgers are just a much less popular item for lunch than what we expected and they had some issues with quality during some of their operation.”
This new location will offer essentially the same menu as a full-scale Panda Express and is projected to be open for lunch and dinner for four or five days a week, with Saturday hours implemented on a trial basis. “We’ll make adjustments semester by semester based on demand,” said Steele.
“Panda was the highest ranked, most interesting concept that was interested in the location and we spent a fair amount of time with our Student Advisory Council talking about a wide range of options and this is where we landed,” said Steele. The Auxiliary Services Dining and Retail Services Advisory Council is affiliated with the Undergraduate SGA Campus Services Committee and consists of students from various campus organizations along with Georgia Tech faculty and staff members.
The board concluded that Panda Express, Chipotle, and Panera Bread were highly popular among students after soliciting feedback from the student body, however two options were not feasible.
“We have talked to Chipotle about trying to come to our campus and they’re not building out concepts on college campuses,” said Steele. “Panera needs a much larger space and they have unrealistic expectations, in our opinion on how much they need to generate in sales to justify their operations.” Panda Express currently have locations on college campuses nationwide and were interested in expanding into Atlanta.
“We’re also working on a new Mexican concept we would like to install in the food court to replace Rosita’s [Cantina] and something that is closer to Chipotle or Moe’s,” said Steele in response to the strong student demand for Tex-Mex.
Dining Services is also in talks to change the current pizza offerings; a pizza-by-the-slice restaurant may replace the current Pizza Hut in the Student Center.
“We’ve heard that that’s really a preferred option by the students. Typically pizza by the slice is inexpensive, and very fast,” said Steele, citing a current successful operation at Emory University. “Pizza Hut has done very poorly in the past year so we’ve seen the customer count at Pizza Hut decrease …by about 35%.” Complaints over nutritional value and cost were reasons for its unpopularity.
Primarily, student feedback is responsible for the yearly changes in Georgia Tech’s dining options. “We don’t change things unless we find that students don’t want to purchase that product,” said Steele. “There is not reason to take up space because space is really valuable especially in the student center.”