An Upgrade in Nourishment

Courtesy of Maxine Wally

Topio’s Pizza, Subway and new additions to Quiznos and Starbucks highlight a flurry of changes in UC Irvine Dining with the beginning of the new year. These new food options are designed to further appease student appetites throughout campus.

Aramark’s new proprietary brand, Topio’s Pizza, replaces Bene Pizza in the East Food Court of the Student Center, though Bene Pasta and Salad remain. The new pizza features a thinner crust combined with spices and seasonings that allow students to better personalize and customize their meals. Fictional figurehead Sal Topio, whom one can follow on Facebook, also boasts an organic tomato sauce on all of his pizzas.

“It’s very good,” transfer student Jak Abdulate said, while trying a slice of Topio’s for the first time. “I feel like the crust is healthier.”

The move was three years in the making and part of a nationwide propagation of the Topio’s brand that hopes to see 40 campuses with Topio’s by the summer of 2011. Overall, the move represents a conscious effort toward sustainability and organic foods.

“We’ve found through student focus groups and surveys that [things like] the thinner crust and made-to-order personalizing options have been a hit,” said Hospitality and Dining Services Marketing Manager Alice Chang. “We wouldn’t bring something to campus without multiple surveys and [confirmation that students would buy in.]”

National sandwich franchise Subway will take over the area occupied by a closed-down convenience store in BC’s Cavern, near the Ayala Science Library and Schneiderman Hall. The long-rumored development is currently in construction, and scheduled to open in February 2011.

“They’re just handling the legal wording and contracts at this point,” said Lin Tang, associate director of UCI Hospitality and Dining.

Meanwhile, two already established campus eateries will be making changes in order to allow each UCI branch to more closely imitate its outside franchise. Quiznos in the Student Center West Food Court, which previously served a petite version of Quiznos full menu, will now expand to a traditional menu with the exception of a kid’s menu.

At the same time, Starbucks has added a hot-food program and now serves breakfast sandwiches and other toasted items.
Both Chang and Tang commented that the seeming competition of the two sandwich chains on campus was not a concern.
“Students have different tastes,” Chang said. “Some like Subway and some like Quiznos. Many places actually have similar situations.”

Also in the works is a permanent foodie trucks appointment in the Arroyo Vista parking lot on Thursday night from 6 to 9 p.m. A pilot program of two portable trucks serving a range of typically popular foodie-truck goods per week is scheduled, with future expansion possible based on how much success the service encounters. Administrators are hopeful for a February start date, with only the legal contracts still incomplete.

The new developments are part of ongoing efforts for Aramark and dining services to satisfy student desires. Promotions such as getting a free coffee with the purchase of a hot sandwich from Starbucks are being held this week, and Quiznos is celebrating with similar promotions. Look out for the JAM monkey, Aramark’s mascot, who will be frequenting Ring Road and the Student Center areas.