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Burritobowl Restaurant Opens at the Pete

By Alexa Bakalarski and Danni Zhou / The Pitt News Staff

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Students living in upper campus no longer have to hike to Forbes Avenue for quality Tex-Mex food.

The food chain Burritobowl, a rice bowl and burrito restaurant that often operates on college campuses, opened in the Petersen Events Center August 22, replacing Cafe, a coffee shop.

Abdou Cole, the resident district manager for Pitt Dining Services, said the decision to replace the cafe was made based on student feedback, social media comments and suggestions from the Student Government Board’s Food Committee meetings, which regularly drew 50 to 60 students last year.

“Our recent student surveys indicated that more students than ever before were looking for increased global flavors on campus,” Cole said in an email. The most recent survey was spring 2015.

Burritobowl — which has restaurants at Georgia State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Mississippi State University — serves rice bowls, burritos and Asian coleslaw. Cole said students can choose from a variety of different global tastes, including Korean Barbecue sauce, Athenian Greek dressing, basil pesto or buffalo sauce.

Because the previous coffee shop was one of the few on upper campus, Burritobowl will continue to offer smoothies and Starbucks coffee, Cole said.

To set up for the new restaurant, Sodexo, Pitt’s dining contractor, made several renovations to the space, including a new counter, cooking and service equipment and electrical work. They also put in a new color scheme and menu boards. Cole declined to comment on the cost of the renovations

Cole said Sodexo worked with privately-held food company Freshёns Fresh Food Studio, the owner of Burritobowl, to develop the menu based on student feedback and focus groups.

Joel Bracy, who worked at the Petersen Event Center’s Pasta Plus last year, said the layout of Burritobowl is similar to Chipotle, meaning customers can build their own burrito or bowl. University members can choose from the list of burrito or bowl options or customize their own.

“I think Burritobowl offers more choices than Chipotle and Qdoba, like different kinds of peppers and meats,” Bracy, now an employee at Burritobowl, said. “Another thing that I think is cool is that we offer smoothie options.”

According to Cole, the number of employees at Burritobowl will depend on customer traffic during different parts of the day, though Sodexo expects to serve more than 350 customers on an average day. Cole said that Sodexo is working to “meet the changing preferences of students” but that Pizza Hut, SubConnection and Burger King make up a good percentage of the revenue for the restaurants at the Pete.

Sodexo also trained employees the week before the restaurant’s opening with managers going to “Burritobowl School” at Freshёns corporate kitchen in Atlanta for certification.

Along with Bracy, two additional employees worked on Monday. Kim Hutching, who has worked at the Petersen Event Center for 20 years, said the number of customers overwhelmed her.

“Ever since we opened, we have been so busy,” Hutching said. “There is never a time of the day when we are not serving at least a few students.”

Not all students who have tried the new eatery are sold, though. Julia Siracuse, a junior electrical engineering student, said she likes Burritobowl’s food but that Chipotle might beat it out. Although she found the ingredients to make her favorite Chipotle meal at Burritobowl, the burritos weren’t the same.
“I’ve eaten here a lot, and it’s decent, but I don’t think it’s as good as Chipotle,” Siracuse said. “The way they make the bowls and burritos aren’t like Chipotle’s style, and the sauces taste different.”

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Burritobowl Restaurant Opens at the Pete