As some students may know because of its heavy advertising, UMass Boston is bringing new dining options to campus. This seems to be a semesterly announcement. Last semester, students were introduced to Swirl, the new smoothie bar and various other additions. This semester, UMass Boston Dining Services added virtual kitchens to the menu.
Virtual kitchens have been a recent trend across online ordering apps. Most of the time, they are used by restaurants that want to showcase a specific part of their menu to receive more orders. Virtual franchises have become even more common across apps like GrubHub, Uber Eats and DoorDash.
These franchises all originate from the same source, MrBeast Burger. Famous YouTuber and internet personality, MrBeast is known for his extravagant schemes that always seem to end in some sort of extreme and charitable act. He started this virtual franchise as a way for the restaurant industry to survive COVID-19.
“In exchange for a cut of sales revenue, the brand supplies the name, logo, menu, recipes and publicity images to any restaurant owner with the space and staff to make burgers as a side hustle,” says The New York Times (1). So why exactly is UMass Boston bringing these concepts to the school?
It seems like a last-ditch effort to provide money for the university. For now, the menus are available on the Everyday app—the new dining app introduced last semester—but only for pickup.
According to the Resident District Manager of UMass Boston Dining:
“Ice Cream Shoppe, Buddy V’s Cake Slice and Mariah Carey’s Cookies will be available for pick up at the Food Court Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pardon my Cheesesteak will be picked up from the Beacon Café Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Mr. Beast Burger will be available from Late Night Bites in the Dining Commons Monday to Thursday from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. All orders must be placed through the Everyday App and be picked up in person for the time being. We are working on some new ideas for potential delivery for Fall 2023.”
The question at hand is whether the delivery options will only be available for students, or will UMass Boston be profiting off the unknowing public?
A good thing to come out of this is there will be new vegan and halal options: MrBeast Burger includes Impossible Burger patties for all options and can also be made halal upon request. However, as usual, gluten-free students seem to be left in the dust, despite being “a cornerstone at UMass Boston.” This isn’t new to gluten-free students.
Dorm resident Emma Pion claimed she ended up eating the same meal over and over at the Dining Commons as a gluten-free, vegetarian student due to the lack of options. There are no new gluten-free options with these virtual kitchens and no mention of kosher options either.
The prices are said to be “extremely competitive with local businesses,” but also are not friendly to a college student’s budget. For example, Mariah Carey’s Cookies offer a dozen cookies for $21.99.
Because of the selected virtual kitchens, UMass Boston appears to be partnered with Virtual Dining Concepts to bring students these options. This company pays for all the fees and expenses from the Everyday app, so UMass Boston can just focus on the profit. In exchange, VDC collects a percentage of said profit.
Besides these virtual kitchens, UMass Boston Dining has also introduced a few other new options. The Dining Commons will now be offering breakfast sandwiches daily, as well as increasing the popular Bacon Avocado Grilled Cheese, Loaded French Fry station and Chicken Nugget Night.
Also, the Quesadilla Corner will now be offering vegan and gluten-free options, which will hopefully prevent the situation mentioned previously. In the Food Court, Mariara will return to the Chef’s Table, along with Simple 7. At the Beacon Café, The Fry Factory has expanded its menu to include Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich as well as additional options added to the Swirl menu.
The ISC will now offer the ability to toast students’ sandwiches, as well as offering hot breakfast sandwiches and sandwich specials. There will also be a second cash register added for quicker lines and transactions.
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