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A bubble tea vendor might be coming to the Bryan Center

The empty space that once housed Red Mango has plants in front of it to make it look less deserted.
The empty space that once housed Red Mango has plants in front of it to make it look less deserted.

A new year brings new changes to dining at Duke, and a replacement for the gated space that once housed Red Mango in the Bryan Center might come in the near future. 

Robert Coffey, executive director of dining services, wrote in an email that Duke Dining is mulling the idea of bringing a bubble tea vendor to Red Mango’s former location. Junior Annie Roberts, co-chair of the Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee, said that plans to put an eatery in the space left vacant by Red Mango’s move to Wilson Gym in May 2018 are currently on hold because of summer flooding damage

“The most recent idea from DUSDAC, based on student input, is placing a bubble tea operation in that space,” Coffey wrote. “If all works out during the vetting process a formal [request for proposal] will be going out this semester for DUSDAC to select a bubble tea operator.”

He explained that multiple potential vendors were floated as potential options last year, but that due to the “limited space” and “various facility restraints,” they didn’t work out. 

In the spring of 2018, Red Mango replaced Quenchers in Wilson Gym, leaving its former site on the first basement level of the Bryan Center vacant. Last fall, Duke Dining hinted at the possibility of opening a kosher deli in the space. In April, Dining said it was considering a bubble tea vendor and Ginger and Soy.

The move to Wilson garnered controversy because of students’ attachment to the healthy options and welcoming atmosphere. A change.org petition to keep Quenchers in Wilson, which stated that the loss of the eatery would be “an extremely heartbreaking event on campus,” accumulated more than 2,000 signatures.

Roberts said that despite the rocky start at the new venue, Red Mango’s updated menu, which includes smoothies, salads, sandwiches and juices, has been received “fairly well” by students. 

She noted that the new academic year has seen other dining updates, including new food trucks, new Merchants on Points options and renovations at Pitchfork’s, formerly known as Cafe Edens.

She expressed excitement about several new vendors coming to Duke this year. Arepa Culture, a food truck specializing in Venezuelan cuisine, will be on campus Wednesdays starting at 5 p.m. Some on-campus food trucks will now be located in Edens Quad, which Roberts said is a more convenient location for most students, especially with the addition of the Hollows. 

The Merchants on Points program will also feature expanded options this year, including Naan Stop, Vine Sushi, Zweli's and Devil's Pizzeria. The program allows students to purchase food from restaurants around campus using food points during certain time periods, which can be useful for students when no on-campus vendors are open nearby.

First-years also have 800 food points this year, a change that’s allowing them more freedom to sample food from eateries other than Marketplace.

Furthermore, Roberts noted that Pitchfork’s—a popular eatery located in Keohane Quad—has been renovated to help with long lines and improve customer service.

“A lot of students rely on [Pitchfork’s] for a lot of different meals,” Roberts said.

DUSDAC works with Duke Dining to determine new vendors at Duke, control the food truck program and interview prospective vendors, she explained. 

One of Roberts’ goals for the group this year is to “strengthen our relationship with the larger student body,” she said. She added that she would like students to feel comfortable approaching the committee directly with suggestions. 

She also wants to strengthen DUSDAC’s public relations program and push for Duke’s sustainability initiatives to be implemented in the University’s dining programs.

“Dining is very responsive,” Roberts said. “If they can do it, they'll make it happen.” 

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