The Newman Grind opened its doors to students for the first time at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22.
The new on-campus establishment will be open 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is located in the study area next to the bookstore, which used to house the on-campus Scooter’s location.
“I am very excited,” Bookstore Manager Larry Williams said. “Not only does the café bring more traffic into the store, but it was way too quiet in the bookstore for a while. I’m also looking forward to see what new food items they will have to offer.”
When the Newman Scooter’s location closed in December, Great Western Dining offered to fill the space.
Chris Heck, director of food services will also organize how the Newman Grind operates. Even though his hours are now split between the two on-campus food locations, nothing will change at the Mabee Dining Center, he said.
“I still have Chef Bob and the full Mabee Dining staff and they know their expectations over there,” he said. “As a food service director, I’ve run kitchens, done the paperwork, caterings that were just massive and concession stands — but this is my first real snack bar. So it’s a bit of a learning curve for me, too.
“I’m going to listen to the customers, and what they tell me is the direction this will travel.”
Both the hours of operation and menu items are somewhat limited due to the quick turnaround. However, the options will expand as the business grows, Heck said.
“We are very fluid on all of this,” he said. “If we see a need to stay open a little later, we will. The menu for breakfast and lunch will also increase as needed. If people are saying that they really want more sandwiches and things like that, I may run a daily sandwich special.
“I just want the customer to know that our food is fresh — that it’s not going to be sitting here for a week and then you’re going to be paying full retail price for it.”
Breakfast items include biscuit sandwiches, breakfast burritos, muffins, fresh fruit and yogurt. The lunch menu provides sandwiches, pizzas and pre-made salads which will be ready for students to grab and get to class or work.
Along with a new on-campus business comes new goals to focus on, Heck said.
“All of our prices are a little bit lower than Scooter’s were,” Heck added.
Fresh salads are $3.50 and sandwiches are only $3. Heck also plans to put some combo deals together for upcoming weeks, so students, faculty and staff should keep an eye out for those soon, he said.
“One thing I’ve noticed at Newman is that nobody has time. They’re all either running to their part-time job or they’re going to practices or have scheduled classes from 9:30 in the morning to 1:30 in the afternoon. When are you supposed to eat?
“Scooter’s was mainly a coffee shop that did a little bit of food, but we’re focusing more on the food and less on the fancy coffees,” Heck added. “We found that the fancy coffees were actually slowing things down as far as students being able to get in, get their stuff and get to class or wherever they need to be.
“At the Newman Grind, they’ll be able to just come up, grab a pizza, grab a drink, pay for it and get straight to wherever they need to be.”
Scooter’s Bucks are now called Bonus Bucks and they work in a similar way as before. Students on the meal plan will still have $100 Bonus Bucks to spend at the Newman Grind. The only difference is that Bonus Bucks do not cover the cost of snacks for sale on the shelves — for now, students will need to pay for these items at the bookstore counter.
“That may change in the summer if we renew the contract. We just couldn’t get the financial backing with the little time we had,” Heck added.
Heck hopes that the reduction of price and time it takes to serve customers will encourage more business from commuters as well.
“Most students are going to class and working part-time, and they’re just trying to survive right now,” he said. “So I’m trying to give a few survival options.”
Ashlyn Stoner, who worked at Mabee Dining Center in past semesters, said she looks forward to working for the Newman Grind.
“The only student population I get to see are those on the meal plan, so I’m excited to get more of an interaction with the rest of the school,” she said. “I’m really excited to get to meet everybody and see a little bit more of the school that I don’t usually see.”
Heck added, “We are excited about being a bigger part of Newman. This (space) sitting empty was not an option for me. It needs to be open. It’s a good part of this university and I’m very happy and excited that we’re here.”