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Students eat lunch at the Taco Bell in the University Center at Fresno State on Aug. 25, 2017. The Taco Bell was announced to close down at the end of spring 2017 semester but remains open. (Daniel Avalos/The Collegian)

Despite one year guarantee, Taco Bell faces uncertainty

After announcing its closure at the end of April, Taco Bell Express is set to remain open for the 2017-2018 academic year

It’s long term future, however, is up in the air.

Megan Sarantos, manager of university dining services, said demolition of

Taco Bell Express came to a halt to ensure broader feedback regarding a replacement dining concept.

Feedback from the campus community is at the top of the list for Sarantos given the financial and physical impact in changing a dining facility.

“There is a significant financial investment required by Taco Bell for brand updates ​if the decision is made to extend operations past May, 2018,” Sarantos said.

Associated Students, Inc. Vice President Brandon Sepulveda said ASI will begin talks with Fresno State Vice President of Administration Deborah Adishian-Astone, Sarantos and the Food Services Advisory Committee to explore options for replacing Taco Bell Express.

Some students were upset when a story about Taco Bell’s fate came out in The Collegian. They felt blindsided. Adishian-Astone expressed regret over the process.

Meanwhile, plenty of students were found eating inside the facility around lunchtime on the first day of school. Tables were occupied and the customer line stretched around the corner of the cashier counter.

Maria Antonio-Pacheco, a second-year pre-nursing student, spent her first lunch of the new year enjoying one of her favorite food spots on campus.

“[I felt] kinda sad because I always come here,” Antonio-Pacheco said. “It’s really fast. It’s much faster than all the other ones.”

For students like Antonio-Pacheco who visit the facility at least once a week, the future of their dining options lies in the kind of feedback received by University Dining Services through dining surveys.

Input from the campus community and students alike is a vital part of determining the overall desire to keep Taco Bell Express intact or replace its location with a new dining option, Sarantos said.

“[Taco Bell Express] is really cheap. You can’t beat it,” said third-year kinesiology student Alex Ramos. “If they did replace it, I would hope that they can accommodate with the prices.”

Similarly, Antonio-Pacheco mentioned that upon potential replacement of the Mexican-inspired food chain, she would want to see it succeeded by a healthier food option that also offered reasonable prices.

Sepulveda said healthy food and its affordability are the concerns he hears most from students. However, another goal for dining on campus is variety.

“We strongly believe that Fresno State students deserve the best. We will be taking a long and detailed look at how we can better be serving our students,” Sepulveda said.

Focus groups are a way ASI hopes to address concerns of affordability and how much students are willing to pay for healthy foods, Sepulveda said.

“Considering the large amounts of students on our campus who are food insecure, taking away the cheapest food option on campus does not seem like the best decision,” he added

Surveys will be designed in the coming weeks, Sepulveda said. The surveys will pinpoint student needs and wants for dining and are planned to be sent to student emails in late September or early October.

“When decisions are made, like removing Taco Bell, ASI’s goal is to ensure that the student’s voice is involved in those decisions,” Sepulveda said. “We believe that we will come to a successful solution by the end of the school year.”