Ten minutes before anyone could offer the first order at the Starbucks truck, the line stretched eight deep.
Coastal Carolina University students, eager for their caffeine fix, waited for the campus’s newest dining amenity to open Tuesday afternoon near the Edwards Building.
“I’m going to probably come here a lot,” said freshman Ethan Pease, who was looking forward to a chai tea latte. “All my classes are in this building right here. I don’t want to walk all the way to the library.”
The mobile Starbucks officially opens Wednesday, but the truck made some trial runs Monday and Tuesday. The vehicle is the second Starbucks on campus — the other, a brick-and-mortar café, is in Kimbel Library — and it’s the latest change to an expanding dining scene that’s adding facilities and recognizable brands.
Eating more chicken
One of the more popular changes arrived this semester when the campus added a Chick-fil-A in the CINO Grille.
“Every year it comes up as the No. 1 chicken brand, at least here on campus,” said Jeff Stone, general manager of food services with Aramark, which oversees Coastal’s dining facilities.
Food services staff regularly survey students to find out what their customers want. Stone, who is in his fifth academic year at Coastal, has watched the transformation of the campus menu during his tenure.
The Quiznos in CINO converted into a Subway. Java City became Starbucks. The campus added Einstein Bros Bagels in Brittain Hall and the HTC Center opened with a concessions area and catering space.
Last summer, the campus launched a food wagon called the Road Rooster, which serves breakfast and late-night fare.
And Coastal officials aren’t done yet. The campus is in the midst of a more than $250 million construction campaign, and a growing student body needs more dining options.
“We’re working on a bunch of different expansions,” Stone said.
Some of those upgrades will be finished in January, said university spokeswoman Martha Hunn. The Student Union is adding a 1,500-square-foot convenience store. There’s also a new 120-seat catering and dining facility that’s ready to come on line near the Williams-Brice center.
“It opens up an area of campus that doesn’t have as many offerings in it,” Stone said. “So as students come through and faculty and staff come through, they have an area that’s easier to access for them to be able to dine on campus.”
The changes will continue in August with the addition of a 900-square-foot convenience store in new campus housing and the Hicks Dining Hall expansion, which will include moving a bake shop up front, adding an American grill and building a deli.
Students seem pleased with the new offerings.
“They have a good range,” said Hunter Horn, who stopped by the CINO Chick-fil-A last week for a spicy chicken sandwich and waffle fries. “[Students] are more pleased now that there’s a Chick-fil-A and some of these options are popping up. I know freshman year, when we only ate at the dining hall, you kind of got sick of [that] it was either pizza or stir fry.”
But students cannot survive on Chick-fil-A alone, said sophomore Clodagh Hanley. She stopped by CINO for some nuggets last week, but she said she usually eats at home because she finds it’s easier to make healthier meals there.
“I love Chick-fil-A,” she said. “I can’t eat that every day or else that’d be, like, really bad.”
Although there are some vegetables available on campus, she’s never been overly impressed by the selection.
“The salad bar’s not the freshest and the nicest thing that you could get,” she said. “Healthier options would be nice.”
Making better choices
This fall, Coastal launched its LiveWell initiative, which, among other things, encourages students to make wiser mealtime decisions.
When asked how food services staff can balance students’ need for healthful foods with their demand for fried chicken and sweet tea, Stone pointed to the digital education programs available.
Aramark offers one called “Healthy for Life,” which provides nutrition and wellness information online. He also uses his Twitter handle, @CCUFoodMan, to share recipes and offer tips on portion sizes. The goal, he said, is to ensure students have the most information.
But do college kids actually pay attention?
“It’s Twitter,” Stone said. “So it depends on the time of day and the activity out there on what’s favorited and retweeted. The students that are looking for that, it’s definitely very helpful to them.”
When it comes to persuading students to eat right, it’s often better to encourage them to consume certain foods rather than tell them what to avoid, said Sharon Thompson, a professor of health promotion who has taught nutrition for 20 years at Coastal. She preaches the virtues of grilled meats and all things green.
“People respond much better to positive messages,” she said. “Choose cole slaw as a side item. Choose salad as a side item. Choose grilled. [Say that] rather than, ‘Don’t eat this. Don’t eat this.’”
Whatever Coastal officials do, telling students to shun college staples probably wouldn’t work anyway.
“I do drink coffee every day,” said freshman Christopher Terry, the first person to place an order at the Starbucks truck Tuesday afternoon. He said the bean beverage is among the key college food groups: “Coffee, pizza and a lot of energy drinks.”