NORFOLK — There will soon be a lot more food options for Old Dominion University students and faculty.
Panera Bread, the popular restaurant and focuses on sandwiches, soups and baked goods, should be open in October on Monarch Way, said Janet McLaughlin, who heads the University food services.
But that’s just the start. In early January, a Steak ‘n Shake, Qdoba Mexican restaurant and a new and much larger Chick-fil-A will open in the Webb Student Center, along with a renovated Café 1201.
McLaughlin, the district manager for Aramark, which handles food service on campus, said the changes are in part a result of the campus master plan adopted by the Board of Visitors in 2013.
Campus Executive Chef Robert Patton said the concept of enlarging food options is the same as it was in the master plan, but some restaurants have changed.
“Over the years, as the student body changed. So has their preferences,” Patton said.
McLaughlin said one of the main goals has been to get a major burger chain, such as Steak ‘n Shake, on campus.
“In every survey of students we’ve had since I’ve been here, the No. 1 request was for a national burger brand,” McLaughlin said.
While students were away for the summer, workers began demolishing the 1201 Café. When work is done, a smaller Café 1201 will open, as will the Steak ‘n Shake, Qdoba and Chick-fil-A.
Chick-fil-A’s current location will close just before Thanksgiving. That area will be turned into new seating for the four restaurants.
Café 1201 previously catered largely to students living on campus who had meal cards. But since Broderick Commons opened in 2016, McLaughlin said a smaller Café 1201 is appropriate.
The University has purchased three food trucks that will be open for lunch on campus to help reduce the pressure on existing food outlets at Webb Center. One truck serves pizza, another grilled sandwiches and fries and the third is a Chick-fil-A.
McLaughlin said that the grill truck is on Kaufman Mall, the Chick-fil-A in between Monarch Hall and the Engineering Systems building and the pizza truck near Perry Library.
They will remain open until the end of the semester.
“They are here to support the venues in Webb Center while we’re going through construction,” McLaughlin said.
The food trucks will be retired from lunch duty in January. In the meantime, two will be used to support food services at the new Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium.
“The food trucks will be available for special events” beginning in January, McLaughlin said. “If you want a food truck to serve tacos, pizzas or just about anything else at an event, we can do that.
“We’ve already received inquiries about the trucks.”
In perhaps a year or so, ODU will open a new Raising Cane’s in a vacant lot on Hampton Boulevard. Another Chick-fil-A will open at the old Raising Cane’s outlet on Monarch Way.
The current Chick-fil-A at the Webb Center is perhaps the most popular of the dining venues in the facility. It is far too small to handle the crush of students during lunch.
A larger Chick-fil-A was high on the lists of requests from students.
“That’s what this is all about,” McLaughlin said. “We’re trying to provide the food options that our students tell us they most desire.”