Inside the University of Southern California's latest concepts

By 
Dana Moran, Managing Editor

USC pastry case

With a prime location in Los Angeles, one of the nation’s foodie capitols, the University of Southern California has plenty of dining competition. So when Kris Klinger, assistant vice president of retail operations, discovered that students were heading off campus for sushi and noodle bowls, he knew it was time to take action. The construction of Fertitta Hall, part of the university’s Marshall School of Business, provided the perfect opportunity.

Fertitta keeps students on campus for Asian options ...

USC sushi

With one of the largest international populations of any major research university, the demand for quality Asian food is off the charts. “We know they’re looking for something they’re familiar with that also tastes good and is authentic,” Klinger says. 

... with made-to-order top of mind

USC Asian bowls

Made-to-order sushi and Asian bowls, as well as bao and bahn mi sandwiches, are marquee options at Fertitta, which has been selling more than $12,000 of volume a day, a 100% jump from Klinger’s initial projections.

A tighter focus

USC pastry case

Previously, Klinger says, Popovich functioned as a catchall space, with a hot well and items from the commissary kitchen. Recognizing that the university lacked an eatery specifically focused on Mediterranean cuisine, USC Dining chose to move in that direction, with acai bowls, salads, coffee and wraps also on offer, and seating for 30-35 people. “We had a pastry case in mind as well; that doesn’t go in line with healthy, but it will be yummy,” says Associate Director of USC Auxiliary Services in Hospitality Gary Marschall.

An MBA student destination

USC dining

Though the two space share a courtyard, and their buildings are literally 10 feet apart, the intimacy and convenience of Popovich makes it popular among weekend executive MBA students, who use the space during their breaks. During the redesign planning process, Klinger and his team added components that allow students to customize their workspaces; all tables are movable, with one designed to unfold and create a partition for privacy. “We were smart about it, because knew who those users were, and asked what they were looking for,” Klinger says. “It’s greatly benefitted us.”

Eye toward adaptability

USC kitchen

While international flavors—especially Asian—are the hottest thing in foodservice right now, that may not always be the case. With this in mind, Klinger says the 150-seat space was designed with flexibility looking at the future. “As far as trends and how they ebb and flow, the expectation is that [Asian is] not going to die out in the next 3-5 years,” he says. “And as it does, if it does, we set up the equipment in that venue to be able to support other concepts as well, so we can swap it out.” The service space was created to flow a certain way for made-to-order, so USC can bring in deli options and improve upon the salad station.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion
MeuDirections

One of my favorite cartoons shows a commander whose soldiers are in the midst of fighting a war with bows and arrows. Without turning around, he tells a man who has come up behind him, “I’m sorry, I’m too busy to talk to you.” The man was a rifle salesman.

In today’s time-pressed world, we are all too busy. So, it can be difficult to find time to reach out to others for ideas, solutions and best practices. But as that cartoon illustrates, it’s critical to being successful. The sharing of knowledge is a pillar of FoodService Director . Through our magazine and events, we have been...

Ideas and Innovation
chefs

We started inviting chefs and FSDs from other districts to come prepare lunch. Through featuring different chefs and chef-inspired meals, I’ve found the students have been looking forward to coming into the cafeteria. They are willing to try new things with crazy names, and to ask for their favorite outside items turned healthy.

Ideas and Innovation
tapas

I’ve created a high school “focus group” to see what future college students will want in terms of foodservice. This year, I called up two now-seniors from the last group to get 10 of their friends together. I also include a sophomore or two so that I always have a contact for next year. Tapas, grain bowls and late-night breakfast all originated from this group.

Ideas and Innovation
making meals

This summer, we teamed up with a church to deliver meals to three housing projects. We brought the meals to the church, and then the church recruited volunteers to deliver the meals to the children. We’ve been very impressed with this new model, and it shows great promise in getting meals to children who otherwise would not be able to leave their housing project.

FSD Resources