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Food Factory on campus remains a ‘real possibility’

About 30 minutes away from Duke is a small deli that can bring its diners’ taste buds to a New York deli nine hours away. But bringing that same taste to campus is taking longer than some expected.

Several student representatives from the Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee, campus leaders and Director of Dining Services Jim Wulforst lunched at The Food Factory in Cary, N.C., Saturday. Talks to bring the eatery to campus began last year and a plan was approved by Duke Student Government to open the eatery by this Fall, but the plans fell through.

“Things kind of just went on hold,” Food Factory Owner Jim Schmid said. “I don’t know. You’ll have to talk to Duke about that.”

Wulforst said the plan was suspended because of Dining’s financial troubles, which he declined to provide further details about.  

“We are very prudent with the way we spend money,” Wulforst said. “All projects have to be approved by senior administrators.”

Adding a new restaurant on campus means a host of new construction and rental costs, which cannot be assessed accurately for The Food Factory because the total cost depends on an eatery’s location. Schmid said he would like a space at Duke where his staff can replicate what it does in Cary—making food on location.

Even though the future for the project is unclear, the addition of The Food Factory remains a “very real possibility,” Wulforst said. In the next few weeks, the administrators hope to engineer a new plan to solve Dining’s financial issues with the input of Duke Student Government and DUSDAC.

DSG President Awa Nur, a senior, and Campus Council President Stephen Temple, a junior, were among the diners Saturday.

“Momentum just faded in the project... I want to rejuvenate student interest [in The Food Factory],” said DUSDAC Co-chair Jason Taylor, a senior. The tasters chose their own entrees from the lunch menu, which featured wraps, salads and The Food Factory’s signature sandwiches.

Wulforst, who has introduced new eateries over the years in order to up the quality and increase the variety of food, said Duke is considering bringing The Food Factory to campus because revenue decreases if “you don’t refresh concepts.”

Although University administrators and student leaders are still trying to decide on the best way to bring the restaurant to campus, all of the diners Saturday were impressed by the fare offered.

Schmid opened The Food Factory with his wife Lisa almost nine years ago. He had worked in a deli in New York City as a kid growing up in Queens, and his deli now offers a “hybrid” of classic fares from a typical New York Jewish deli, a German deli and an Italian deli, Schmid said.

If it opens at Duke, The Food Factory would serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night, Schmid said.

“We’ll be back for sure,” said Sharon Deluca, a Long Island native who moved to North Carolina nine months ago. Deluca said she found out about The Food Factory online and drove 45 minutes to the deli with her father. As Schmid chatted with his customer, the subject shifted from food to 44th street in New York City.

“[The Food Factory] tasted just like New York,” Deluca said. “We’ll bring the whole family [next time].”

Despite praise for his food and the interest Duke representatives had in bringing the eatery to campus, Schmid said he was still unsure about his restaurant’s future at the University.

“As far as I know, there’s no commitment yet,” Schmid said.

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