South Campus dining options increase by four

By Kristen Holland Shear

Diners looking for lunch at the South Campus food court are noticing a few more options on the midday menu.

Big Sal’s, Hunan Express, I Fratelli’s and Bru opened in early August in the spots vacated by Taco Bell, Bene Pizza, Homezone and the coffee bar when the medical center’s contract with Aramark ended. Burger House and Subway, meanwhile, continue to operate in the court.

William Deiterman, director of auxiliary enterprises, said the decision to change food-service vendors was driven by a desire to increase the number of offerings and improve quality.

Dallas-based Culinaire has been hired to run and oversee the food court, but the new eateries are all subleased and independently operated.

A Subway franchisee has assumed the day-to-day operations of the venue previously run by Aramark.

Customer service should improve significantly with the new business arrangement, said Michael Serber, assistant vice president for financial planning and auxiliary services.

“They’re all local vendors with personal financial incentives to increase sales and to provide a product that the campus wants,” Mr. Serber said.

“The owners of each venue are going to do whatever it takes to win the customers’ business. The competition among vendors alone should lead to increased quality and a greater selection.”

The changes didn’t happen overnight.

UT Southwestern solicited bids from a number of companies. Once the options had been narrowed, a committee representing students, faculty and staff selected Culinaire over Sodexo, which runs the food-service operations at UT Southwestern University Hospitals.

Culinaire has handled food services on the North Campus and in the Outpatient Building for the past three years. The company’s proposal to run the food court using independent local vendors sealed the deal, Mr. Serber said.

Also appealing to the committee, Mr. Deiterman said, was Culinaire’s commitment to healthier options including Big Sal’s, which features a fresh salad bar and promotes itself as a “green” company, and fresh sushi that is brought in daily and sold at Bru.