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Three new restaurants come to the bottom of Lenoir, two leave

Bandido's sits in its new space in the bottom of Lenoir Dining Hall on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023.

As well as winding lines, UNC students visiting the bottom of Lenoir Dining Hall can also expect to find three new restaurants this semester.

Changes have been made to dining options using student feedback from survey responses and the Student Dining Board, Christen Flowers, director of dining at the University said in an email statement. The Student Dining Board is a group of students that meets weekly to discuss “anything related to the food program at UNC Chapel Hill.”

Bento Sushi, a restaurant brand featuring hot Asian food and sushi, replaced Sushinara. Bandido’s Mexican Cafe, which previously shared a booth with Italian Pizzeria III, has been moved into a permanent location replacing Burrito Bowl. Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken, a North Carolina-based chain, is also entering the bottom of Lenoir. 

Jamil Kadoura, owner of Mediterranean Deli, said he believes the vendors selected for the bottom of Lenoir represent what UNC deems “healthy” food. 

Mediterranean Deli has worked with Carolina Dining Services for more than 28 years, and despite a recent fire accident at their Franklin Street storefront that halted the regular functioning of the business, they will continue to serve food at the University as usual.

“Besides the financials and the advertising, it's very flattering to me to be chosen and to stay for that long on campus,” Kadoura said. “That means I'm doing something good.”

Caroline Dorry, a junior at UNC, said the food options at the bottom of Lenoir are diverse and allow customers to try new cuisines and appreciate other cultures.

“It helps [businesses] reach different consumers and it helps [students] try different kinds of food,” she said.

Dorry also said the dining hall’s central location on campus makes it more accessible to students who may not be able to walk to popular restaurants on Franklin Street. 

The owner of Bandido’s, Antoni Sustaita, said the featured businesses in bottom of Lenoir also benefit from having locations on UNC’s campus. The bottom of Lenoir not only provides income but also “marketing possibilities,” he said.

“Every year, we have an influx of new students, and there's so much for them to choose from on Franklin Street that this actually makes it really easy for them because they can try our food there,” Sustaita said.

The shared space at the bottom of Lenoir fosters healthy competition between vendors, but more importantly, collaboration and cooperation, he said.

Kadoura said the resident district manager of Aramark, a food service company that works with CDS, offered a location on campus for Mediterranean Deli to prepare food after the damages endured by its main building.

“We’re on one team,” Kadoura said. “And that's because the University wants it this way. Even if you decide not to be a team player, they are never going to stand for that.”

Sustaita said Aramark periodically asks students and faculty frequenting the bottom of Lenoir to take satisfaction surveys. The results are then shared with the vendors to facilitate improvement. 

“There's a lot of people who are vegetarians on campus,” Sustaita said, “In the past, we had one or two options with grilled veggies and now you can get anything on our menu with grilled veggies. You listen to what the customer wants and you get it done.”

"We are always working toward being one of the best dining programs in the country and will continue collaborating with the Student Dining Board to execute our long-term vision for dining," Flowers said in an email statement through University Communications. 

“[CDS] is changing [for the] better, yet holding people at higher standards,” Kadoura said. “You have to serve good, healthy food no matter what you do.”


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