Nov 19, 2018
The Taco Bell restaurant at the Fresno State campus on April 23, 2017. The fast food restaurant is expected to close on April 28, 2017. (Khone Saysamongdy/The Khone)

The last bell has rung, say goodbye to Taco Bell

The university’s Taco Bell location will no longer be an option for Fresno State students effective on Friday.

Last week students heard the university Taco Bell will be closing its doors just weeks before the semester ends.

Taco Bell employees were also surprised as they were notified of their change in employment just 10 days before the closure.

The decision was “based upon focus groups with students held for the Bold New U, a recent dining survey done by [Associated Students, Inc.] and the USU Board and in consultation with our Food Services Advisory Committee which has majority student representation,” said Deborah Adishian-Astone, Vice President for Administration and Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services.

Adishian-Astone added that since there is no additional space for a new food option, the board decided Taco Bell was the facility to replace after completing a number of surveys, meetings, student focus groups and a “detailed and extensive independent retail dining survey.”

The research showed, Adishian-Astone said, that it was strongly recommended to add a healthy dining facility to the campus.

Megan Serantos, University Dining Services manager, said the decision was made because there have been specific requests by students for a freshly-made salad option, as well as wraps and soups.

Currently, Adishian-Astone said the goal of the deciding committee is to constantly review dining options that meet the needs of the entire student body.

“We hear often in student forums and through the president’s feedback page that dining services does not offer enough healthy, gluten-free or vegan menu options,” Adishian-Astone said. “This new salad/soup/wrap concept will meet that need.”

After receiving the information they discussed which food option would be best to remove from the campus.

“In consultation with our Food Service Advisory Committee, and given that we have another option for authentic Mexican cuisine on campus with Robertito’s, the recommendation was to close Taco Bell Express…,” Serantos said.

The remodel of the location will take place in summer in preparation for the fall semester.

Adishian-Astone said the decision to close Taco Bell before the semester ended, was due to need to move quickly, finalize the design for the new concept and to start any facility improvements to give enough time for training and a soft opening prior to the start of the fall semester.

Taco Bell is a go-to food staple for many students on campus who are looking for a quick and cheap way to eat before, after and in between classes. Social media was alive with disappointment over the taco bell’s closing.

Students had questions about where they were going to find a “cheap” meal replacement.

On Facebook, pre-nursing student Sylvia Huey said, “This is my go-to place for my lunch break whenever I got tired of the USU food court food. Where will I go now for lunch?”

Student Marisol Campos said, “…this is where I go when I need something cheap and fast. Everything else is so expensive.”

Taco Bell supervisor, Richard Flores said, he heard rumors going around about a possible remodel of the building, but on April 18, he and his 15-member team were notified just 10 days before the closure.

“I was kind of bummed out,” Flores said. “I’ve been working for the Taco Bell company for about seven years, so this was all really familiar to me.”

Flores said he will need to get used to the new changes for the upcoming dining option.

“Now that it’s changing, it’s a whole new set of protocols, a whole new set of policies, a new menu – it’s something that I don’t know so it’s going to throw me for a loop,” Flores said.

Serantos the dining services manager said, “Employees were notified as soon as the recommendation was finalized and approved by the Association Board of Directors.”

Team members were mostly shocked and scared, said Flores. “I was trying my best to reassure them, that we do have the first dibs on the employment next semester,” Flores said.

Serantos said current team members have been offered positions at the new dining facility and throughout the summer, with University Dining Services.

“Every employee has been given the option to continue their employment with dining services in our catering department,” Serantos said.

Taco Bell usually closes over summer, but team members will have the opportunity to earn money over the summer. “This will allow them to not only work until the end of the semester, but into [the] summer as well, if they are available.”

Flores believes the late notice was unprofessional.

“In my eyes, they could have said something, just at least give us a heads up,” Flores said.

Adishian-Astone said, the university tried their best to mitigate inconveniences with the transition.

The closure came at the time of a contract renewal of the franchised food chain. “The money brought in does not compete with Robertito’s,” which is one of the reasons why Flores said he feels the contract is not being renewed.

He said that although Robertito’s has less menu items, their food costs more. Taco Bell has a dollar menu that students take advantage of.

“That’s better for the typical college student – it’s cheaper, it’s faster and it’s a good deal,” Flores said.

Adishian-Astone said burdening students is never the goal, but to allow enough time for demolition and a remodel to occur, the closure needs to happen as soon as possible.

Adishian-Astone encouraged students to use the dining hall as a an alternative.

Serantos said Robertito’s will begin to offer value items including combo meals at an affordable price point.​

“We are excited about this new option,” Adishian-Astone said. A name being discussed as an option includes VictorE Eats, and she asks for the campus to provide feedback to herself or dining services. “We feel it is a dining concept that will be very popular with our students and the entire campus community.”

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