Familiar faces return to Student Center Dining

The map above displays the dining options in the John Lewis Student Center. There are 12 total dining options, four of which are familiar options that have been available on Tech’s campus before; eight are newcomers. // Photo courtesy of Tech Dining

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed a quote to Tech Dining Director Ryan Greene. It has been updated with the correct attribution to third-year ME Andrew Schneider.

As the construction in the center of campus comes to a close, students anxiously await the opening of the John Lewis Student Center and Stamps Commons — not just for a space to relax and recharge, but also due to the slew of dining options it brings.

Since the closure of the Fred B. Wenn Student Center in May 2020, students found themselves without permanent fixtures for dining in the center of campus, an issue that was addressed by the food trucks that became regular installments to the Tech Green landscape.

“I went there a couple times when my friends were there… Also a couple times when there was no way to get back to Nave [North Avenue Dining Hall] and back to where I needed to go in time,” said Andrew Schneider, third-year ME.

The Student Center project, after years of deliberation, planning and building, will finally open its doors to students this fall, with a grand opening ceremony scheduled for early September. With it, the project brings 12 dining options to campus, some of which will be very familiar to Tech students.

The road to choosing dining options for the Student Center has been a long one, and different agencies have been in charge of making decisions.

From Sodexo, who held the dining contract until 2019, to Aramark, which held a contract from then until 2021 (when self- operated Tech Dining took over), priorities and opinions differed.

Tech Dining Director, Ryan Greene, said over a Teams call, “We really just wanted to find the best offerings of food that we could.”

Of the 12 dining options that will be available in the Student Center, four were already determined as staples to return: Chick- fil-A, Blue Donkey, Panda Express and Twisted Taco.

“So Chick-fil-A, we’ve been negotiating that contract for a year and a half. They’ve actually put some money into the space in terms of buying the equipment themselves and owning it,” Greene said. “Chick-fil-A will be operating this one, and then Panda Express is in a similar situation. They’re gonna operate that location as well.”

Twisted Taco will move into the Student Center into a space they designed and branded, and Blue Donkey will open another location on the second floor of the Student Center.

“They’ll be in there on the second floor and it’ll be the only dedicated coffee concept,” Greene said.

Greene promised an expanded menu for the Student Center’s franchised retail dining options.

“It’ll be much expanded compared to what you saw in the Exhibition Hall. It’ll definitely have the menu variety that you saw in the old Student Center and then some,” Greene said.

Schneider said he would probably frequent the Student Center’s dining venues.

“Just having them be in a building with air conditioning or heating would be a lot more attractive,” Schneider said.

Here’s a first look at some of the newcomers to Tech’s campus:

YOM/SOL

Yom and SOL are sister brands, and they’re a “healthy concept,” said Greene.

“They’ll sit beside each other and they’ll have smoothies, fresh pressed juices, grain bowls and some other healthier hot options as well.”

CAMPUS CRUST

Campus Crust is a pizza concept, owned and operated by Tech Dining.

TEST KITCHEN

Test Kitchen is a research and development concept, owned and operated by Tech Dining.

Featuring a rotating menu, the test kitchen is where Tech Dining plans on getting feedback on recipes and what students want to eat.

“We’ve planned on doing an Indian concept in there to start out the semester in the fall,” Greene said.

TECH IT TO GO

Tech it to Go is a grab-and-go concept, similar to Wreck Stop Express in the Exhibition Hall.

BENTO SUSHI

Bento Sushi is a dining location that will sell fresh rolled sushi, ramen, poke bowls and bento boxes.

THERE BURGER BAR

There Burger Bar is the late night food option, open as long as Tech Rec is. An offshoot of There on Fifth, the eatery in Tech Square, it will feature a flatter menu at a lower price point with a focus on speed of service. Their menu includes vegan and vegetarian options.

MODEL A FOOD TRUCK

Owned and operated by Tech Dining, the Model A Food Truck will travel across campus, bringing allergen-friendly food to parts of campus without nearby access to it.

“A lot of food trucks have catered more towards more traditional palates, and maybe weren’t as accommodating when students had dietary needs,” Greene said.

Greene said that in essence, it is an expansion of the already existing MindfulBytes concept present in dining halls.

GYRO CHEF MEDITERRANEAN

The same Gyro Chef as the food truck that frequented Tech Green will be moving indoors, featuring an expanded menu.