Chase Gaewski | Asst. Photo EditorOn the Hill
Change of taste: Burger King and Taco Bell are replaced with healthier options at Kimmel Food Court
Whether it was a grand night of drinking and partying or a calm night in, senior Jaime Rivera’s most exciting nights with friends would be wrapped up with the same, joy-inducing proposal:
“Let’s go get Taco Bell.”
“One of the biggest effects of drinking is getting hungry, and Kimmel is the easiest, cheapest and most convenient solution,” said Rivera, a finance major who describes himself as someone who has “lived off Taco Bell for the last three years.”
His incentive to go to Kimmel Food Court, which housed popular fast-food restaurant chains Taco Bell and Burger King up until last month, is gone.
“Now it seems there’s nothing to get excited for,” he said.
Kimmel opened Queso’s and Trios Thursday, two conceptual restaurants created by Syracuse University Food Services. They replace Taco Bell and Burger King as the food court’s staple restaurants. Kimmel is best known for its late dining hours — which extend to 3 a.m. on weekends — and its acceptance of students’ meal plan declining balance accounts, SUpercard Food.
Queso’s is a southwest-style restaurant that serves nachos, burritos, quesadillas and rice bowls with several toppings available, such as salsa, pinto beans, sirloin steak, chicken breast and carnita pork. Trios is a sliders restaurant that offers mini Angus beef hamburgers, chicken breasts, pulled pork and vegetarian burgers.
As SU reached the end of its franchise agreements with Burger King and Taco Bell at Kimmel, talks of Food Services creating its own concept restaurants arose, said David George, director of Food Services. After years of student and customer feedback, it was decided that Queso’s and Trios would be healthier meal options.
Queso’s and Trios allow Food Services to better control the types of ingredients and incorporate more natural products into food mixes, George said. Taco Bell and Burger King’s national brand specifications were rigid and allowed little to no flexibility in alternative ingredients.
For example, had Food Services wanted to substitute local tomatoes during tomato season, it would be required to utilize the national brand’s supplier of tomatoes, George said.
Since Queso’s and Trios are concepts developed by Food Services itself, they are able to handpick the ingredients going into the products they serve. George said Food Services utilizes fresh, local produce and local dairy products when available to support Syracuse-area farmers.
While Taco Bell and Burger King offer healthy alternatives to their main items, they dictate which items they will make “healthy.” Customers at Queso’s and Trios can instead choose the type and amount of each product they want, so the customer controls how healthy his or her meal is, George said.
But Marisa DeCandido, a senior broadcast and digital journalism major, called Taco Bell’s greasy, unhealthy meals the “perfect cheap, late-night food.” For her, the health values of the food were not her concern.
DeCandido’s go-to meal was the restaurant’s signature Crunchwrap Supreme: a soft flour tortilla filled with seasoned beef, a gooey cheese sauce and a crispy tostada shell.
"I think it'll take a little while for students to get excited about these new eateries. Once people start trying it, they might be pleasantly surprised."
Nicole Osborne, sophomore policy studies major
She remembers a 2 a.m. venture to Kimmel one night when she ordered six Crunchwrap Supremes and six tacos to split with three other friends.
“I have no shame in admitting we ate all of it,” she said.
As a college student on a budget, DeCandido can’t afford to spend her SUpercard money on expensive food, and restaurants like Taco Bell and Burger King had fit her budget well. She was initially excited to take her younger brother, who is a freshman this year, to the food court to show him the variety of 3 a.m. fast-food options.
Though she knows that Queso’s, the restaurant replacing Taco Bell, is a Tex-Mex food venue, DeCandido believes it won’t have the same gross-yet-satisfying food Taco Bell provided.
“What else could you want?” she asked.
For sophomore policy studies major Nicole Osborne, the old restaurants were all about the familiarity.
She could go to Burger King, a worldwide fast-food chain, and know exactly what to expect and how much it would cost. Her concern is that Queso’s and Trios are too similar to Marshall Street restaurants Chipotle and Sliders, respectively.
“The only reason I would go to Kimmel instead of Marshall Street for these items would be to use SUpercard Food or if I was too lazy to walk farther.”
When creating new restaurants, Food Services evaluates the options available to them and looks at what’s trending in the country, continually reviewing customer satisfaction. Customer feedback includes information obtained through surveys and comment cards, said George, the director of Food Services.
In spring 2012, a student food advisory board was created within the Student Association to further understand how students felt about dining centers on campus and what changes they wanted to see. They met with higher administration in food services and, though they weren’t part of the decision to bring in Queso’s and Trios, they were a part of the discussion, said PJ Alampi, chair of SA’s Student Life Committee.
“The best thing we can do is see how students feel in a few semesters,” he said. “If students reach out to us and send emails, we might have a good try of getting the (Taco Bell and Burger King) contracts back on campus.”
But students are still looking at Queso’s and Trios with an open mind.
Osborne did try Trios during her Resident Adviser training. She had the All-American Slider, BBQ Pulled Pork Slider and natural cut fries. Though the sliders “weren’t bad,” she said, the prices were noticeably more expensive, which was “definitely a turnoff.”
“I think it’ll take a little while for students to get excited about these new eateries,” she said. “Once people start trying it, they might be pleasantly surprised.”
Rivera said he’ll give Queso’s and Trios a try, but doesn’t expect it will be on par to the previous restaurants. He said the pictures on advertisements slipped into napkin dispensers in the dining halls didn’t even present the food in a delightful way.
“I think Kimmel loses a lot of quality,” Rivera said. “And at the end of the day, there is no replacement for Taco Bell and Burger King.”
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