Burger fans rejoice.
The Sbarro in Squires, acquired in 2002 by Dining Services, will be relinquishing its space when their contract expires. While rumors have circulated that a Panda Express franchise would be taking Sbarro’s spot, an upscale, gourmet burger concept will be taking the space instead.
The abundance of pizza places on Tech’s campus was a major determinant of Sbarro’s departure.
“We’re getting some feedback from the Student Government Association, and from the Dining Services’ Student Advisory Council,” said Luther Moseley, assistant director of Squires and the Graduate Life Center for Dining Services. “They’ve said, ‘We’ve got pizza at West End Market, we’ve got pizza at Pizza Hut at Hokie Grill, at Dietrick, DX and Turner Place. We don’t need more pizza.’”
Giving credence to the rumors, Moseley has said the top candidates for Sbarro’s replacement were a Chinese eatery and a burger place. After discussions with the SGA and the council, Moseley said, “We’re going with burgers.”
Had Dining Services chosen a Chinese restaurant instead of burgers, Panda Express was the “leading contender” to fill the space. However, Moseley said that Dining Services was not excited about the idea of contracting another franchise. Instead, a burger restaurant created by Dining Services offered more flexibility.
“We found that if we go with the burger concept, we can do something on our own, without having to franchise it,” Moseley said. “So the burger concept is what we’ve researched and feel like will be widely supported by the student body, and this is going to be a great location for it.”
According to Moseley, the burger concept is entirely developed by Dining Services, using in-house chefs. Members of Dining Services, including Moseley, visited upscale burger restaurants, mostly in Northern Virginia, to find inspiration for their burger crafting style.
Nazim Khan, Executive Chef Senior for Dining Services, is developing the menu and recipes for the new location, which will include beef, turkey and veggie patties. The veggie patties will be black bean based, and completely different than those served at Au Bon Pain. Speaking about Khan’s take on the veggie patty, Moseley noted, “I’ve tasted it. It’s wonderful … and it will be a fresh patty, not a frozen, purchased product.”
The restaurant will also serve hand-cut fries, and it intends to use potato buns and fresh ingredients. The provider for meats used in the burgers has not been determined yet, though it may be local.
“We’re talking to VT Meats as a possibility, but beyond that, the closer we can get it, the better,” said Moseley. “We’re not sure (VT Meats) is going to be able to provide the quantities that we’re going to need, because we’re expecting this to be pretty high volume. But if we can’t get the total quantities, maybe we
can integrate it in some way.”
Moseley couldn’t offer the anticipated prices for meals served at the incoming eatery, but he noted they would reflect the upscale style of the restaurant and food.
“This is not going to be in the McDonald’s end of the spectrum, this is going to be more restaurant style,” Moseley said. “It’s going to be commensurate with restaurants that provide gourmet burgers.”
Moseley expects most current Sbarro staff to flow into operations seamlessly, and hopes the burger place will create more opportunities for employment. Aubrey Huffman, operations manager for Sbarro, confirmed most of his staff plan on returning to the location next semester.
The name of the new location has not yet been determined, but senior management of Dining Services hopes to use a student contest to come up with an appropriate title. Dining Services plans to open the restaurant by the end of August, at the start of next semester, but Moseley noted the uncertainty in the current timeline.
Some student reaction to the news notes a hint of disappointment in the decision to forgo a Panda Express on campus. Jordan Scott, a senior English major, was “not happy” about the decision, stating, “The Chinese food at Owens is unfortunate.”
Others are more positive about the change.
“I wasn’t a Sbarro fan. I heard rumors it was going to be a Panda Express, and I was really excited for that,” said Michael Driscoll, a junior business information technology major. “But I think a burger place will be more enjoyable, and I’ll go there a lot more than I went to Sbarro.”
While the fate of the burger concept is, like many other aspects of its development, “to be determined,” Moseley expects the student body will quickly pass judgment on the new restaurant soon after its completion, saying, “People vote with their pocketbook.”