The University of Florida's latest eatery is bringing restaurant-quality meals to campus

Cravings Campus Kitchen offers students a selection of made-to-order, customizable dishes.
College students eating
Cravings Campus Kitchen offers students five different food stations that lean heavily on customization. | Photo: Shutterstock

A former racquet club dining center at the University of Florida got a new lease on life this school year. The Chartwells Higher Ed team transformed the space into Cravings Campus Kitchen, a new eatery that aims to offer a little something for everyone.

“The goal was to make it like a food hall where there's a multitude of stations that apply to everybody,” says Director of Culinary Marc Cruz.

Since its debut in September, the space has become the go-to spot on campus for students who are looking for a restaurant experience.

An emphasis on customization

The offerings a Cravings center around five food stations whose menus feature scratch-made meals that place a high focus on customization.

“I think in this day and age, that's what everybody's looking for, right? [Students] don't want it the way it is. They want to be able to pick and choose,” says Cruz.

At the Around the World station, for example, students can customize burritos to their liking with an array of fillings, while over at Gator Grill, everything from burger buns, patties and toppings, can be switched up based on personal preference.

Craving’s emphasis on customization is most apparent at the aptly named Build-Your-Own station where diners can build their own Pho using different ingredients, including shredded carrots, beef, edamame and tofu.

Cruz has plans to introduce different LTO’s in the coming weeks and will also be swapping out the Mexican cuisine at Around the World with Indian fare.  

Students order their meals at one of eight kiosks. While the kiosks took a little bit of time for students to get used to, Cruz says the line moves rather quickly now. One thing that still does take time, however, is the food preparation since everything is made fresh to order.

“[Students] understand that,” says Cruz. “They're willing to wait for a good quality product.”

Expanding into breakfast

The student response to Cravings has been extremely positive.  

“They love it. They're like, ‘This is the best place on campus,’” says Cruz.  “I think the kids are, more or less, moving away from all-you-can-eat and kind of going into this realm where they just want a good quality meal.”

Currently, Cravings is only open for lunch and dinner, however, the space may soon be opening its doors on the weekends for brunch.

“We’re actually looking at if we could do something [on the weekend] during game days,” says Cruz.

Expanding Cravings to also include breakfast during the weekday is less likely, but not completely out of the question.

It would require some additional planning and some modifications since everything is made from scratch, Cruz says, but it could be an option if the team can find a way to maintain the food quality that diners have come to expect from Cravings.

“I'm a firm believer, if you do things correctly, and provide the good flavors and presentations, people will come,” he says.



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