Atlanta-based, woman-owned restaurant Slutty Vegan is set to open its first college campus location at Tech in the John R. Lewis Student Center, offering plant-based burgers and meals with an abridged menu with exclusive items set at a student-friendly price point.
Known for its plant-based burgers with names like the “One Night Stand” and “Sloppy Toppy,” the restaurant has gained a cult-like following in the Atlanta area and beyond.
Founder Aisha “Pinky” Cole has been vocal about her excitement in this new venture. In an interview with 11Alive, she said “Now, to be able to infuse my organization on a very well-respected college campus is like — it’s not just a big moment for not just [Slutty Vegan], but for Georgia Tech,” she said about going from a ghost kitchen to now serving her concept at several locations. “And I believe that the students are excited.” Cole said.
And Cole is correct. Somil Joshi,Fifth- year EE who is vegan, was enthusiastic about the opening of a fully vegan dining location on campus, as it means he does not have to worry or be careful about what he’s ordering.
“As a vegan, … you kind of have to be very careful where you can eat. You have to ask a bunch of questions, and sometimes things aren’t labeled. So it’s nice to not worry about that.” Joshi said.
This is not Slutty Vegan’s first venture onto Georgia Tech’s campus. Their famed food truck occasionally serves up meatless meals on Tech Green up to several times a month. Lines stretch along the perimeter of Tech Green, demonstrating increasing demand.
Tech Dining director Ryan Greene has been instrumental in bringing vegan and vegetarian options to Tech’s campus, overseeing the transition from contracted dining operations to a self operated solution.
Greene said in an interview that a lot of feedback for Tech Dining prior to the opening of the Student Center came from SGA, student feedback via text-and-tell and focus groups.
“They all asked for more vegan and vegetarian food on campus… so we invited Slutty Vegan to come to our tasting. [This] didn’t mean they were going to win it or be selected,” Green said.
The tasting event was held in December 2021, where a number of vendors were invited and students could sample their food and vote for their preferred vendors, grouped by categories like “Asian/Sushi”, “Burger”, “Coffee/Tea”, “Healthy” and “Mediterranean/Pizza.” The location on the first floor near Tech Rec was “built out to be a burger concept in terms of the equipment that it had and layout and things like that from the beginning,” Greene said.
At this tasting, There on Fifth, Slutty Vegan, WNB Factory and Cluck-N-Mooh were all in attendance, vying for the Tech Rec location. “Our focus outside of just the kind of food and the layout was to find local concepts… Can we bring in local [and] regional brands,” Greene said, explaining that Slutty Vegan being based in Atlanta, being minority-owned and having vegan food “checked a lot of boxes of interest.”
When the votes were tallied, There on Fifth came in first, Slutty Vegan in second and Cluck-N-Mooh came third. Greene explained that whileThere on Fifth won the bid, they “weren’t able to manage the location from an operational perspective. They had challenges with some of their management, they had an executive chef … back out at the last minute, and they weren’t able to keep up with the production as well as they needed to.”
As a result, There on Fifth and Tech Dining mutually terminated the contract after only a few months, and Tech Dining began conversations with Slutty Vegan. As negotiations with Slutty Vegan continued, Tech Dining entered a temporary contract to bring Cluck-N-Mooh into the student center to operate a location in addition to their other location on campus near West Village Dining Hall.
Discussions about bringing Slutty Vegan onto campus involved all facets of campus administration. “We worked with the general Georgia Tech administration and leadership to say this brand is a little unique in terms of their name, their offerings, the experience… Is this something we can even consider on campus and the answer was a tentative yes, [but] we needed to talk to other people and get their feedback,” Greene said. “So we met with both graduate and undergraduate SGA, spoke to the Women’s Resource Center, the Title IX Office and Communications about their brand.”
Joshi mentioned that one of his major concerns with bringing a restaurant like Slutty Vegan to campus is the price point. “I don’t remember how much I paid, but I think a burger was like $15, which is a little bit more expensive than I would’ve liked.”
Greene said price was a major point of concern for Dining as well, explaining that the new location will have a custom menu with items at a lower price point. “The custom menu is still being finalized, but will include items like a grilled cheese and some other things which are still vegan, but have a lower price point to them.”
Slutty Vegan’s hours of operation will be matched to Tech Rec’s hours of operation, said Greene. “The goal is for that location to be open later. As of now we’ve already discussed 10 or 11pm for Slutty Vegan to close but it’s going to be based on foot traffic.” wWhile reception of the news of Slutty Vegan opening its first college campus location at Georgia Tech has been met mostly with excitement and anticipation, there have been some students who have voiced concerns about the allegations of wage and tip theft against Cole.
On Jan. 13, 2023, a lawsuit was filed in federal court alleging that Cole was pocketing tips intended for employees. While Cole has denied the allegations, some students have expressed hesitation about supporting a business that has been accused of mistreating its workers.
Greene, however, dismissed these concerns, “we had a general conversation with them to make sure that that wouldn’t affect us in terms of our operation… But it was a bar location and we don’t have a bar and it was tips and we don’t do tips” he said. The addition of Slutty Vegan to the center’s dining options and its expanded hours are both major wins for Georgia Tech students, many of whom are eager to try the restaurant’s popular vegan burgers for themselves.