The Tiger Express food court was packed with students and faculty as Grambling State University President Frank G. Pogue and his wife, Dorothy, stood at the Taco Bell counter ordering tacos as scores of hungry customers stood behind them.
Students made it clear last semester that they wanted this fast food option, and Tuesday’s grand opening was clear evidence. “Taco Bell will be a major attraction for the food services at Grambling State University,” said Pogue.
“This was a very big step,” confirmed LaResha Taylor, 20, a junior social work major from Houston. “Taco Bell is maybe one of the best moves yet.”
Taco Bell opens restaurants across the country, and there are plenty of fast food options in the Grambling-Ruston area. But GSU students fought for this on-campus option – and won. A student survey was provided and Taco Bell came out on top.
In addition to Taco Bell, students were swarming ARAMARK’s Products on Demand Market, a new specialty convenience store offering fresh fruit, smoothies, special coffees, grocery store-type products and black beauty products. There are a number of these stores on campuses across the nation, according to ARAMARK, but this is the only full-service “Provisions on Demand” on any Louisiana campus.
Earlier at a general assembly in the T.H. Harris Auditorium, students cheered loudly when it was announced that the official grand opening would be held in a matter of minutes.
“Students were not satisfied with the overall options in Tiger Express,” said Jordan Harvey, the Student Government Association president. He applauded the university’s decision to work with he and other SGA representatives to make this desire a reality.
University Director of Food Services Eddie Rushing said when he arrived in February it was obvious that the right thing to do was to work to bring Taco Bell to the campus. The restaurant replaces Topio’s Pizza, which offered combinations of pasta and pizza.
“Students said Topio’s was the lesser option they preferred,” said Carday Marshall, manager of food services.
Rushing said the GSU Taco Bell will have a same menu and prices just like those in Ruston whereas other campuses have an express version, or limited, menu. He said they opted for a full-service menu because ARMARK thinks GSU students will appreciate it.
“This gives more options to the students,” said Rushing. “They can get the full Taco Bell experience.”
Rushing projects revenue of about $300,000 annually at the Taco Bell and about $210,000 annually at the market.
The grand opening was a celebratory event. Six students had the chance to win a limited edition Bayou Classic cooler in the taco-eating contest. Popular student deejays, the GO DJ Twins, entertained students and faculty with popular music mixes as people enjoyed lunch and browsed the new eateries. Two roommates and softball teammates enjoyed the activities and options, especially since neither have a car. The food court is walking distance from their dorm.
“It’s very convenient,” said Alexus Brown, 18, a freshman education major from Beaumont, Texas. “The food was really good. The line was long, but it was definitely worth the wait.”
“I love Taco Bell,” added Aayilah Lowe, 18, a freshman kinesiology major from Hitchcock, Texas. “I mean really, who doesn’t love Taco Bell.”
Students weren’t the only ones enjoyed the afternoon.
“It brings more variety to Tiger Express,” said Joseph Price, the head basketball coach.
“I am not a big taco eater, but these are good,” said Nettie Daniels, associate vice president of planning and institution research planning, as she enjoyed a Nacho Cheese Loco Taco. “These tacos will bring me back again.”