AVI serves up a fresh menu of dining options this fall

Cook making food

Aug. 24, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Virginia Woolf once said, "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well." With that in mind, AVI Fresh, Slippery Rock University's contract food vendor, is working hard to make sure that, no matter what, each student's idea of dining "well" is covered by some aspect of the University's culinary program.

Determining what students want from a campus dining experience isn't always easy.

"We're dealing with the food preferences of thousands of different diners each day, but AVI is up to the task," said Joe Balaban, resident district manager for AVI. "Because the dining program is predominantly built around student wants and needs, much of our knowledge and information for what we offer comes from student feedback. Many of the changes coming this fall are direct responses to student input. We listen to what students tell us, whether it's positive or negative, because we can't have a great program without those interactions between ourselves and our customers."

AVI receives that customer feedback through a variety of ways, including comment cards, online surveys and interviews throughout the academic year.

"We build our menus one semester at a time," said Dan Tokarek, AVI director of operations. "This year's incoming freshmen might want something totally different from last year's freshman class, so it's incredibly important that we are always asking them how we're doing and what they'd like to have on the menu. User feedback is critical."

Many of the changes AVI is implementing for the fall 2018 semester revolve around Boozel Dining Hall. When students walk in, they will be greeted with two new stations: a made-to-order breakfast sandwich station and an area devoted to vegan-vegetarian cuisine. And, to make sure ingrediants are as fresh as possible, AVI installed a hydroponic garden so chefs could begin growing their own vegetables and herbs including lettuce, kale and basil for use in preparing the daily menu.

"I'm excited to have another option (the new MTO station) that's fresh, made-to-order, students' choice," said David Uram, executive chef for AVI. "It'll include all your breakfast favorites in sandwich form, and it's all made-to-order as you want it all day."

The vegan-vegetarian station will play off of the Flags of SRU concept found at the Fusion station, Uram said.

"The station will take into account certain countries that have student population representation and will rotate four different dishes from that country," Uram said. "Each of those will be hot entrees, which is a change from what vegan and vegetarian students have had to choose from in the past."

Weisenfluh Dining Hall will also be seeing some modifications this fall, including more MTO options. Among the changes are a more "Chipotle-style" approach to ordering at Horizons; expanded and customizable flavor profiles at The Met; and half-sandwich and half-salad options at Elia.

"I'm excited to make the students happy, that's the biggest thing," Tokarek said. "Not only do I love all types of food, but I just want to make sure we're appealing to as many students with as many different options as we are able."

Another new wrinkle is expansion of the meal swipe options. Previously, meal swipes were only accepted in Boozel Dining Hall, at Boozel Express and at the Campus Drive Grill. Beginning with the fall semester, meal swipes will be available for certain options at Weisenfluh and Rocky's.

Balaban said AVI will also be offering reservation-only Chef's Tables at Boozel, where groups of up to 10 students can reserve a table and be served a specific dish created by the culinarians.

Delivery services are also being revamped, with expansion to several off-campus locations including The Grove, University Village, Campus Side Heights and South Rock apartments. An improved delivery menu will feature expanded options from Quaker Steak & Lube as well as monthly promotions and specials.

Balaban said that AVI also will be offering volume pizza sales, meaning the larger a student group's order is, the lower the price per pizza.

Catering from Quaker Steak & Lube, Rocky's and Starbucks will be offered as well.

"We're looking to really build excitement and hopefully keep students here on campus on the weekends, too," Balaban said. "There's a lot of good things happening this year."

MEDIA CONTACT: Megan Bush | 724.738.2091 | mxb1092@sru.edu