The spring semester has brought several new flavors to both the Lorita Boren Student Center (the Stu) and the Hodson Dining Commons (DC.)
In the past two weeks, the Stu welcomed an updated wing station that is here to stay.
No longer is it just pizza occupying the back right corner of the Stu. Now, students can find their favorite wings and enjoy a flavorful chicken meal, or match one slice of pizza with three wings for more variety.
This station, now called The Pie Co., has also partnered with a local cheese provider out of Warsaw, Ind. All pizza is now topped with mozzarella cheese made not too far away from the oven.
“Students need more variety,” Dining Services Director Nathaniel Malone said.
While the changes add variety, this was also a financial decision. Looking at the total sales in the Stu before the addition of wings, Chick-fil-A received 60% of sales. Taylor is responsible for paying royalties on every purchase, which affects Taylor’s bottomline. Malone’s thought process included finding a way to balance sales distribution among other concepts.
Marketing strategy was another aspect that brought about change. The old pizza station, Emma and Charlie’s, was not well-known and only hurt the marketing endeavors of Taylor dining. In an effort to change branding, Malone has created a more recognizable brand name: Pie Co.
The chicken in Pie Co. is smoked in-house on the industrial smoker located in the DC. They never touch a fryer, making for a healthier, more flavorful option.
There are four flavors to choose from when picking up wings from the Stu: smoky BBQ, sesame ginger, Italian garlic parmesan blend and buffalo. These unique options are only one example of the fresh choices coming to Taylor dining.
According to the student comment cards and fellow dining services employees, the wings have been a hit.
“I’ve asked (students) how they feel about (the wings) and they like the different flavors and sauces,” cashier Diana Brooks said.
Her personal favorite is a classic, plain wing.
Favoring buffalo and sesame ginger himself, Malone is excited about the dining additions. He has been at Taylor for four years, serving in various positions, giving him a breadth of knowledge about Taylor’s dining needs.
Malone first came to Taylor as the executive chef, was promoted to assistant director and now sits in charge of the entire service, as of December 2020.
Malone works on the Culinary Innovation Council at Creative Dining Services, the food provider that has served the entire campus for as long as he can remember. They are always trying to come up with new concepts for the whole company, and Malone oversees these efforts, utilizing Taylor as a “test bed” to see how certain meals sit with students.
Taylor is pushing towards healthier living and eating, and Malone’s role in this is significant. He spoke about the recent global shift in mindset from a standard animal protein-based diet to a plant-based diet. The hummus bar and introduction of Buddha bowls in the DC are direct results of this plant-forward movement.
“There are many reasons plant-based protein is better,” Malone said.
Without undermining animal protein, he provides insight into what he calls the “protein package.” He uses this concept in challenging people to ask, “What do you get with a protein?” He points out that there is no difference between the protein in meat and protein in plants. However, protein in a steak is accompanied by fats, while legumes offer additional minerals and vitamins aside from protein.
These efforts to promote better nutritional choices stem from the mindset that this is a healthier way to eat, and it is better for people and the planet.
The Curb, Taylor’s food truck, is up and running again to create an additional option at the Stu. This week, they will be offering a BBQ concept that offers pulled pork, coleslaw and chips. This dining option has provided an opportunity for Malone and his team to further experiment with what concepts the campus supports. Depending on the popularity of the menu, most stay for two to three weeks.
This week only at the DC, you can expect a new takeover that will feature Korean Bibimbap, an entree that allows you to build your own bowl.
Be sure to check out these fresh options and maybe even try something new and nutritious.