Duke may not be in Casablanca, but Rick's will soon be opening its doors on campus.
The University has contracted the owners of Rick's Diner and Catering, a local establishment on University Drive, to run the new café and diner in the McClendon Tower of the West-Edens Link. The eateries are currently on schedule to open by the time students return in late August.
"We looked at the package and felt like we had so many Duke students and faculty customers at our current location that it would be a really good opportunity for the University and for us," said Rick Lynch, owner of the local diner.
At least until fall break, the diner will remain open 24-hours and the coffee bar, the Blue Devil Beanery, will be open from 8 a.m. until midnight.
"We asked about 10 vendors in the Durham area to participate in the bid process and basically everyone of them told us that there was no way they could operate 24-hours a day," said Jim Wulforst, director of Duke Dining Services. "[Lynch] was the only one to say, 'I'll give it a stab, let me see.'"
In mid-October, Rick's will reevaluate its hours for both establishments. The diner will determine the profitability of staying open at all hours, and the café will decide if it needs to stay open late at night with the diner open downstairs.
"We're doing it based upon information the University is giving to us about the activity of the student: It appears some sleep during the day and some sleep during the night," Lynch said. He added that if the early morning hours between 3 and 7 a.m. provide weak business, the diner will close, mostly to allow the staff to clean the kitchen and prepare it for the next day.
The café, located on the fourth floor of the tower, will offer Starbucks brand coffee beverages, as well as a line of baked items, cookies and smoothies. Also, a mini-convenience store similar to the Lobby Shop will be located behind the café. Seating will accommodate about 25 inside, and during warm weather, the same number outside on the House D walkway.
Downstairs in the diner on floor zero, Rick's will offer 24-hour breakfast, sandwiches, salads, milkshakes and daily Blue Plate specials. Lynch said that at his Durham location, the menu offers about 15 southern-style dishes, which in the WEL will be rotated in and out on a daily basis.
Wulforst described the space as "small and eclectic with neat boothing" which seats about 60. There will be no wait staff<customers will order at the counter and their name or number will be called when their food is ready, similar to the system used at the Loop. Alcohol will be served as soon as the necessary permits are obtained.
The diner opens out onto a patio where outdoor seating will be provided, and customers can also bring their food upstairs to level 1, which partially overlooks the diner below.
Together, there will be a 25-person staff per 24 hours, and students will have opportunities to work in both locations.
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Like all new Duke establishments, Rick's has signed a one-year contract that can be extended three years in the spring. The Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee officials welcomed the decision.
"We'll be interested with working them throughout this upcoming year so that they provide what the students want," said DUSDAC co-chair Isaac Dolgovskij.