USF Dining supports local restaurants through a program developed by Aramark

Recently launched inside the Marshall Student Center (MSC) on the USF Tampa campus, Local Restaurant Row (LRR), a program developed by Aramark that brings minority and women-owned vendors to the venues of customers in higher education, healthcare and company restaurants. . Philadelphia-based Aramark has been the university’s dining partner since 2002. USF Dining’s LRR is located at the 813 Eats Convenience Market in the food court.

“Local Restaurant Row gives small, local businesses the opportunity to really find a voice in the community and be able to use a huge community like USF to advertise their restaurant concept and their food,” said Jessica Cicalese, Director of the marketing for USF Dining Services.

By design, the program criteria are rigorous enough to meet Aramark’s quality standards, but with achievable contract terms for small businesses. Local restaurants, food trucks and area chefs are strategically engaged and carefully evaluated before being invited to the program. Once approved, partners are continually evaluated against a variety of operational criteria, such as licensing and security practices. USF Dining works with USF’s Office of Supplier Diversity to help foster an inclusive supply chain, identifying trending businesses with the ability to fit into a variety of different environments. Since spring, diners have enjoyed Diggy Dogs hot dogs, Ice Creamiest from Tanya and Matt, and Louisiana-inspired cuisine from Livy O’s Catering.

“We sold out on the first day because we underestimated the appeal there would be on campus,” said Staci Ashwood, operations manager at Livy O’s Catering. “Almost every day we had long lines for our garlic aioli fries and chicken and buttermilk waffle sandwich.”

Founded in 2014, Livy O’s is a small minority family business offering full service catering for corporate and private events. They are also registered National School Lunch Program providers and currently serve charter and private schools in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

The 813 Eats storefront allows USF Dining to showcase participating restaurants in the same way as the food court’s other national brands, with personalized signage and a digital menu board for each new vendor. LRR is designed to take many forms. If a featured concept’s menu offering is more suitable for a food cart or food truck, it can also be brought to life on campus. According to Ashwood, the exposure on LRR’s campus led to opportunities to cater to different USF departments.

This semester, Livy O’s is back at 813 Eats with a new sandwich concept, The Messy Bun, on offer until August 10. According to Cicalese, a salesperson can choose to be on campus for a single day or stay for a full semester, as long as they have enough variety to rotate so there’s no menu fatigue. . Livy O’s is currently working with USF Dining to stay for the entire school year, with plans to offer a new concept each semester. Students can use USF Dining Dollars from their meal plan at LRR.

“Thank you to USF, Aramark, and all of the students, faculty, and staff who came out to support us,” Ashwood said. “A physical location is something we’ve been working on for some time and Local Restaurant Row has given us that tick that tells us we can do it. We would like to get a more permanent place on the USF campus.

Behind these physical locations is an online guest restaurant search and management platform. Once a provider is configured in the database, its menu can be found by all Aramark customers running the LRR program, and in turn, selected as a feature in various places. Through this technology platform, small businesses gain new revenue streams while customers at these participating locations enjoy local cuisine.

813 Eats was specifically created to bring local flair and menu variety to the food court. Opened in 2019 as part of the large-scale food court renovation and rebranding of MSC’s dining options, 813 Eats offered a variety of on-the-go specialty snack options and everyday essentials. days. Once the LRR program was developed, USF Dining jumped on board, introducing full-service meals at 813 Eats that quickly became a campus favorite.

“The concept was a resounding success and appreciated by the USF community,” Cicalese said. “So much so that we are expanding the program to USF St. Petersburg this fall.

Located in the university’s student center on the St. Petersburg campus, 727 Eats at The Reef will soon house its very own LRR. The Reef was transformed in 2021 to include this expanded convenience store concept. Another local but permanent addition to 727 Eats is Kahwa Coffee, a coffee roasting company based in St. Petersburg.

Gladys T. Hensley