University of South Florida


813 Eats neon sign above grab and go snacks. In the background is a student walking by the local restaurant row serving station.

USF Dining supports local restaurants through Aramark-developed program

By Torie Doll, University Communications and Marketing

Recently launched inside the Marshall Student Center (MSC) on the USF Tampa campus, is Local Restaurant Row (LRR), an Aramark-developed program that brings minority- and women-owned vendors to client locations within higher education, health care and corporate dining. Philadelphia-based Aramark has been the university’s food service partner since 2002. USF Dining’s LRR can be found at the 813 Eats convenience market in the food court.

“Local Restaurant Row provides opportunities for local small businesses to really find a voice in the community and be able to utilize a huge community like USF to advertise for their restaurant concept and food,” said Jessica Cicalese, marketing director for USF Dining Services.

Serving dishes of food sit ready on a counter

Livy O's created a Bourbon St. Cafe concept serving Louisiana-inspired cuisine. [Photos Courtesy: Livy O's]

By design, the program criteria is rigorous enough to meet Aramark’s quality standards, but with contract terms that are feasible for small businesses. Local restaurants, food trucks and area chefs are strategically engaged and carefully evaluated before they’re invited into the program. Once approved, partners are continuously evaluated across a variety of operational criteria, such as licensure and safety practices. USF Dining works with the USF Office of Supplier Diversity to help foster an inclusive supply chain, identifying on-trend businesses with the ability to integrate into a variety of different environments. Since the spring, diners have been able to enjoy Diggy Dogs hot dogs, Tanya and Matt’s Ice Creamiest ice cream and Louisiana-inspired cuisine by Livy O's Catering.

“We sold out the first day because we underestimated what the appeal was going to be on campus,” said Staci Ashwood, operations manager for Livy O’s Catering. “Almost every day we had long lines wrapped around for our garlic aioli fries and buttermilk chicken and waffle sandwich.”

Founded in 2014, Livy O’s is a minority, family owned small business offering full-service catering for corporate and private events. They are also registered vendors of the National School Meal Program and are currently serving charter and private schools throughout Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

A sign describing Bourbon Street Cafe by Livy O's with food court station in the background

The 813 Eats storefront allows USF Dining to feature the program's participating restaurants in a similar fashion to the rest of the food court's national brands, with customized signage and a digital menu board for each new vendor. LRR is designed to take many shapes and forms. If a featured concept's menu offering is better suited for a food cart or food truck, that can be brought to life on campus as well. According to Ashwood, the on-campus exposure of LRR has led to opportunities to cater for different departments at USF.

This semester, Livy O’s is back again at 813 Eats with a new sandwich concept, The Messy Bun, offered through Aug. 10. The “flavors from the neighborhood” have rotated monthly so far, but the length of the feature is negotiable. According to Cicalese, a vendor can choose to be on campus for just one day or stay for a full semester, as long as they have enough variety to rotate through so there isn’t menu fatigue. Livy O’s is currently working with USF Dining to stay for the entire school year, with plans to offer a new concept each semester. Students can use USF Dining Dollars from their meal plan at LRR.

“Thank you to USF, Aramark and all of the students, faculty and staff that have come out and supported us,” Ashwood said. “A physical location is something we’ve been working on for quite a while and Local Restaurant Row has given us that checkmark that tells us we can do it. We’d like to get a more permanent spot at USF’s campus.”

Operating behind these physical locations is an online guest restaurant finder and management platform. Once a vendor is set up in the database, their menu can be found by all of Aramark’s clients operating the LRR program, and in turn, picked as a feature at a variety of locations. Through this technology-enabled platform, the small businesses gain new revenue streams while customers at these participating locations enjoy local cuisine.

813 Eats was specifically created to bring in a local flair and menu variety to the food court. Opened in 2019 as a part of the MSC’s large-scale food court remodel and dining option rebranding, 813 Eats offered a variety of specialty grab n’ go snacking options and everyday essentials. Once the LRR program was developed, USF Dining jumped on board, introducing full-fledged to-go meals at 813 Eats that have quickly become a campus favorite.

Rendering of the Kahwa Coffee station inside The Reef at the USF St. Pete campus

“The concept has been wildly successful and appreciated by the USF community,” Cicalese said. “So much so, that we are expanding the program to USF St. Petersburg this fall.”

Located in the University Student Center on the St. Petersburg campus, 727 Eats at The Reef will soon be home to its own LRR. The Reef was transformed in 2021 to include this expanded convenience store concept. Another local, but permanent addition to 727 Eats is Kahwa Coffee, a boutique coffee roasting company headquartered in St. Petersburg.

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