Restaurants join student center dining

By Matt Daray

Returning students may not recognize some of their favorite eateries at the Student Center, as new restaurants will soon take their place.

Student Center officials have signed contracts with franchise restaurants such as Subway and Sbarros to provide a larger variety. However, locals and students say the inclusion of these shops could hurt local businesses and prevent diners from exploring what Carbondale has to offer.

Tena Bennett, Student Center director, said contracts with establishments such as Starbucks are in place and other contracts are being added to increase the number of shops in the center.


“We’re also doing contract negotiations currently with Chick-fil-A and Sbarro’s,” she said. “We’re buying those franchises and we’ll be running those in house as part of the Student Center dining and we’re also doing negotiations on a contract with an owner-operator for Subway to put Subway back in the building as well.”

Bennett said new restaurants are being placed within the center because the university’s contract with Chartwells, a student dining company in charge of all the center’s restaurants except McDonalds, ran out. She said most of the new contracts in place are set for 10 years.

New restaurants were chosen from the results of a student survey, Bennett said. Chick-fil-A had its contract renewed because representatives said they have an adequate location in the Student Center and it made financial sense to keep them around, she said.

All restaurants except Subway and McDonald’s will be fully run by the Student Center and its employees per the new contract, Bennett said.

While the inclusion of new franchises may please some students and faculty, one local business owner has a mixed opinion of the new contracts.

Kamal Naser, owner of Wise Guys Pizza, said the inclusion of franchise restaurants will not hurt his business because he opens after most of the center’s shops close.

However, Naser said he has made attempts to add his restaurant as a part of the center to expand his business, but was denied.


“I did try (moving into the Center), but they want franchises and not just local businesses like us,” he said. “They’re looking for a franchise, you know, like McDonald’s and Subway. Something with more branches.”

Naser said not being allowed to run a business in the Student Center is unfair, especially since he is a local business owner.

Local business owners are concerned about how these new restaurants might affect their businesses and the city of Carbondale, but students said the new eateries wouldn’t stop them from exploring the area.

Anna Utz, a freshman from Effingham studying business, said the center provides convenient options, however she wants to explore the city for something different when she gets a chance.

“I think during the week, yes (I’d eat at the Student Center), but during the weekends, I think I’d still go out and try to find more,” she said.

Utz said more Student Center food options would offer students variety apart from university dining food.

Jared Fiske, a freshman from O’Fallon studying chemistry, said they might eat there instead of in town since the Student Center is more convenient for most people.

“If someone is going to eat out, they’re probably going to hit one place per day. If someone has a habit of going to McDonalds every single day, there’s just going to be a lot of days where they go to McDonalds,” he said. “So, I do think it prevents them a little bit.”

Patrick Bailey, a freshman from Marengo studying zoology, said even though the Student Center offers a few different types of food, people will eventually try to find something new.

“If you eat at a restaurant, say a month at a time, you get tired of the restaurant and you want other places to eat and stuff, so I don’t think it will really have an effect,” he said.