La Mexicana, a local restaurant turned food truck, is occupying Bama Dining Flip Kitchen this semester.
Located inside the UA Student Center next to Blenz Bowl, La Mexicana serves a variety of menu options, including authentic tacos with extra toppings, stuffed burritos, and tortilla chips with white queso.
Bama Dining’s Flip Kitchen gives restaurants the option to temporarily occupy space in the UA Student Center food court. Last semester, Cheese Louise occupied the space.
“We found it helpful to change more often as there are different types of food that weren’t offered in the food court,” said Bruce McVeagh, resident district manager of Aramark, the food service provider. contracted catering services for Bama Dining. “It gives a small business owner a chance to test out what it would be like to do higher volume.”
Kristina Patridge, Director of UA Food Services, cited the success of Blenz Bowls, a company founded by two UA alumni, as the reason she thinks Flip Kitchen will help small businesses.
Blenz Bowls started out as an on-campus food truck and now has a permanent space at the UA Student Center. The company currently has both food trucks and permanent locations at Ole Miss, the University of Tennessee, and the University of South Florida, in addition to the University of Alabama.
McVeagh said a local small business owner wanted to turn his La Mexicana restaurant into a food truck, so he applied to join the Bama Dining food truck program. After a tedious process to be accepted into the program, La Mexicana drove its new food truck onto campus in 2017.
The Bama Dining Food Truck Program began in 2016 due to requests from students to have food trucks on campus. To be approved for the program, business owners must submit health scores, appropriate insurance, and various other documents to UA Risk Management.
Food trucks in the program pay semi-annual rent and a commission on restaurant dollar sales. They have 24-hour access to campus and over 14 different locations on campus to choose from to park vehicles.
Companies submit a whereabouts schedule by Friday for next week. This schedule is posted at the beginning of the week on the Bama Dining website and their social media accounts.
UA Student Center Director Darrien Simmons said he often walks around the UA Student Center food court and eats at the various restaurants. He talks with the students and listens to their opinions on the service.
After La Mexicana opened, Simmons stood in line at the restaurant, listened to student orders, and ordered the most popular items.
Simmons said the Flip Kitchen program gives students a variety of options.
“It gives students something to look forward to,” Simmons said. “It’s a surprise. The students don’t know what’s going on in there.
McVeagh, Patridge and Simmons are asking students to share their thoughts on on-campus dining services with Bama Dining via their website or through their student forum.
“We listen carefully to what’s being said,” McVeagh said. “We ask a lot of questions to try to find out what everyone would really like to have. Whenever flavors, menus and palettes change, so do we.
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