The University of Memphis made significant changes to the dining services on campus during the summer by renovating both the Tiger Den’s interior and menu and removing two restaurants from the University Center.
Raaj Kurapati, Executive Vice President of Business and Finance and Chief Financial Officer, said the main priority was to make the Tiger Den a better place for students.
“One of the first things we wanted to do was to make the Tiger Den much more attractive, cleaner and have better food options there, so the initial investments have focused on getting that prepped for the fall and of course we have new floors and changed the layout to make it a little more free flowing,” Kurapati said. “We will see changes to continue over the course of the semester but our focus has been first and foremost getting the Tiger Den cleaned up, and then also to look at ways for us to allow for better traffic flow at the Chick-Fil-A and Panda Express.”
In addition to updating the interior of the Tiger Den, both Taco Bell and Pronto Pizzeria have been removed from the UC. Robin Stewart, Executive Director of Planning and Assessment, said the plan is to replace the two restaurants with a barbecue place called Smoked and a healthier option for students called Create.
“Create is made-to-order sandwiches, salads and wraps, so that healthier concept that a lot of students were looking for is the intention of the Create location,” Stewart said. “Smoked is a Chartwells concept. They are going to highlight local barbecue places and they may be bringing in a featured chef, highlighting a sauce from a particular location in town.”
In addition to changes in the dining locations, Kurapati said food trucks will also be introduced this coming October.
“Food trucks were something that everybody was looking forward to, so we are working to get food trucks on campus by October,” Kurapati said. “That’s the target date because there were folks who were already committed because we couldn’t get out of the gate until July.”
Kurapati said the goal for the food trucks is to get students, especially commuter students, more involved on campus.
“The UC is a great gathering place for students and we would like to see some of that traffic flow out and take advantage of the food trucks,” Kurapati said. “Most of the students that eat in the UC, believe it or not, are primarily residents who don’t want to go to the Tiger Den. So what we want to do is draw some of our commuter students to eat on campus and engage with the student body.”
Kurapati also said although the changes to the dining services are primarily designed for the students, they are also part of a bigger plan for The UofM to reach Carnegie 1 status.
“While it’s a strategic goal for the university, the only way we can do that is to be able to deliver quality services to all of our students,” Kurapati said. “Part of that is having a robust student body that has quality experiences and good food. Research clearly shows that if a student is not well fed with healthy options they tend to struggle more in their performance.”
Jacob Lopez, a sophomore student at the UofM, said he likes the new changes.
“Everything looks very new, it looks more like an actual college setting rather than something you would see in high school,” Lopez said. “It’s also nice to know that my money is actually being spent to better my university.”
The campus dining services will continue to expand throughout the year with food trucks coming this October. Smoked and Create are coming in the spring.