SARASOTA, Fla. (June 29, 2017) – How about free self-serve coffee? Or maybe a latte and freshly made Danish are more your speed.
At USF Sarasota-Manatee, faculty chefs, students and other fulltime faculty from the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership (CHTL) are redesigning the dining experience at Jonathan’s Café, the university eatery at the north end of campus that closed after the spring semester.
The cafe, previously operated by a food service company, is being replaced by an in-house operation that relies on chefs employed directly by the campus and student interns.
“This change allows students in our College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership to participate in meaningful experiential learning while also contributing to the improvement of campus life for the rest of our student population as well as our faculty, staff and visitors to our campus,” said Dr. Terry Osborn, interim regional chancellor for USFSM.
Instead of pre-made and griddle-cooked sandwiches that seemed standard go-to options before, the CHTL is looking to up the freshness-and-tastiness quotient with made-to-order entrées, soups, salads and sandwiches. Look for the café to debut when the fall semester starts, Aug. 21.
One unique enticement: Free coffee to students with valid a USFSM ID, thanks to the Student Government Association.
Student Government has agreed to an upfront payment plan to cover the student body’s coffee costs for the semester or possibly entire academic year. Students would simply present their IDs and help themselves to a cup. Those seeking a specialty coffee can order one at the counter.
“This will be much more efficient than what we have now,” said Barry Callahan, president of the USFSM Student Government Association. “It helps students who may not have a lot of money and sounds like it would speed things up. I think it’s an excellent idea.”
Dr. Pat Moreo, dean of the CHTL, described it as win-win, noting that students can enjoy java at no cost to themselves and the café gets the opportunity to market its fresh pastries, muffins and other breakfast items to the students who come inside.
As morning shifts to afternoon, the café’s menu will switch to fresh sandwiches, salads, soups made from scratch, fresh burgers cooked over an open flame and a hot entrée, including stir-fry dishes, tacos and other cuisine. During summer months and between semesters, the café will turn to a simple grab-and-go menu.
“The main thing is we want it to be a more flavorful experience,” Dr. Moreo said. “Yes, the food has to be fresh, but it also has to taste delicious and that’s what we’re focusing on.”
The details – along with the complete menu – are still being worked out, but Moreo promises a huge upgrade in healthy and tasty meal options. Other possibilities include grab-and-go deli packets prepared by Boar’s Head, a soft-serve ice cream machine and a variety of pastries made fresh by a local bakery – which one is still being decided.
Sandwiches, burgers and other dishes will be made-to-order to ensure freshness and flavor, said Rov Avila, the chef manager who will oversee the café. Student interns from the CHTL will work behind the counter, manage shifts and help out in the kitchen.
Additionally, Dr. Moreo is offering a special invitation to the public. Members of the public are invited to dine at the cafe, along with students, faculty and staff. They’ll pay full price for their coffee and other items, but receive an opportunity to enjoy food made by USFSM’s expert chefs in a scenic university setting.
“This isn’t just for students and faculty,” Dr. Moreo said. “This experience is open to everybody. We want to bring in the public so they can see our beautiful campus.”
Still unknown is the café’s name. Callahan said he planned to speak with Dr. Moreo this week about possible food options and prices as well as a name for the cafe based on upcoming student surveys. In the meantime, excitement over the new café is building, he said.
“This is something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” he said.