The Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee brought up the possibility of adding popular eatery Heavenly Buffaloes and other restaurants to the Merchants-on-Points program at its meeting Monday.
New potential vendors were discussed due to an opening in the MOP program after Chai's Noodle Bar and Bistro left the program in August. The vendors discussed included Heavenly Buffaloes, the popular chicken wing restaurant off East Campus; Luna, a South American restaurant; Guglhupf; a European artisan bakery; Epa Chamo, a Venezuelan restaurant that opened this year; and Don Marcelo’s, which offers Mexican cuisine. In its search for a new vendor, the committee will weigh whether to fill a gap in Italian food or opt for a more niche option, explained DUSDAC Chair Brian Taylor, a senior.
“MOPs are best for finding those little niches that we haven’t found on campus yet,” Taylor said.
Currently, there are no Italian food options represented among the 16 MOP vendors. Taylor noted that this absence is partly due to the removal of the Italian restaurant Pizza Mia from the MOP program in the summer of 2014, a move meant to reduce the number of pizza options at the time. Soon after, the only Italian option remaining—The Pizzeria—went out of business, Taylor explained.
“Do we want to consider Pizza Mia or does that seem [duplicative]?” Taylor asked the board. “I think [Pizza Mia has] a lot of pasta and greater Italian food besides pizza.”
The gap in Italian food will eventually be filled by Il Forno—which will open as part of the new West Union next Fall, he pointed out. Il Forno will feature a caesar salad station, pasta made in front of the diners and a wood-fired pizza oven, said Director of Dining Services Robert Coffey.
Despite the interest in having an Italian food option, several DUSDAC members also advocated for adding Heavenly Buffaloes because of its popularity among students. Several members also expressed enthusiasm about Don Marcelo’s, which they said offers more authentic Mexican food than current vendor Tijuana Flats.
“We’d rather see a place that gets people excited.” said junior Michael Smargon, a committee member who advocated reaching out to Heavenly Buffaloes.
Taylor noted that when DUSDAC first talked to Heavenly Buffaloes about a year ago, the restaurant was just working on getting the business going and was not ready to start signing contracts.
DUSDAC will reach out to all of the proposed vendors to discuss the possibility of adding them to the MOP program, but the discussion is in its preliminary stages. Adding a new vendor to the program can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, Taylor said.
In other business:
Sitar Indian Cuisine, which will operate as Tandoor in the new West Union and currently serves food in Penn Pavilion, will be the second vendor featured in the Taste of West Union series Tuesday. The restaurant will serve food on the Bryan Center Plaza from noon until 1 p.m., rain or shine.
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